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The reality of childcare

By Stephanie Rowland - posted Wednesday, 17 November 2004

I am the director of a childcare centre run by Peppercorn.

I was outraged by the content of the article I read about the lucrative business of childcare (On Line Opinion) by Daniel Donahoo. It is clear that Daniel Donahoo has not bothered to do any research about his subject matter. From the article one can assume Mr Donahoo either has no children and has no experience (other than what he has read) about childcare, or he has a narrow-minded concept of the real world.

The staff I have working for me are professionals and provide quality childcare for families in the community. These days both parents work and many children come from single parent families with that parent working. This means  they are unable to care for their children during the day and so they entrust others to do this for them. Staff and families come together to provide quality care for children, whether in a community or private childcare centre.


Mr Donahoo suggests children should be cared for by parents or within community childcare centres. This is simply not realistic, parents need to work and there are simply not enough community childcare centres to meet the growing demand. If Mr Donahoo is adamant all childcare centres should be community-based, maybe he should lobby the government to create more.

Regarding staff, Mr Donahoo argues, “Private childcare centres need unqualified staff because they are cheaper to employ”. I have friends who work in both private and community centres. Both areas have unqualified and qualified staff. Like most work places there is a “chain of command”, similar to teachers having teacher’s assistants or - referring to McDonalds, as Mr Donahoo does - food outlets having a manager, supervisor, and service staff. The qualified staff member in each room is the person who has the responsibility and is accountable to parents, colleagues and children. This person has the supervisor role in every childcare centre.

The staff who work in my centre are offered opportunities to attend courses, have on the job training and are involved with training at staff meetings, all to increase their skills. They are not “baby sitters” they are early childhood educators, who are not appreciated in the wider community because of people with attitudes like Mr Donahoo’s. Don't blame big business for the lack of training for staff - the opportunities are there for everyone - blame the government for not supporting pay increases and encouraging people who are passionate about caring for children into the sector. Admittedly some centres don't have good staff; however, this is not exclusive to private childcare centres. Like many work places you have good and bad staff.

Maybe Mr Donahoo needs to consider the question, not why unqualified staff are cheap to employ, but why government feels people who work in childcare should be paid only $12.55 an hour. This is the wage the government deems is adequate for people who care for children. Childcare educators do not work in the sector for the money. “Marketing companies often pay their telemarketers more than childcare centres pay their qualified childcare workers”. It is unbelievable that childcare staff are so undervalued in the workplace.

Qualified staff have the responsibility of running a room in a childcare centre, which involves, caring for children, directing staff, interacting with parents, reporting to Directors, writing programmes and so on, and yet the government and wider community (with no understanding of childcare) feel this job is worth only $15 an hour.

People who work at my centre put up with the low pay because they love their jobs, they love working with children, and they are passionate about what they do. There is an ever-increasing shortage of staff in childcare. People are put off working in the industry because of the low pay and recognition in relation to the amount of responsibility required. Qualified staff are turning to more lucrative careers, and unqualified staff are able to work at a supermarket or in the fast food industry and get paid more. If businesses (in any industry) do not have to pay above award wages, they won’t.


Mr Donahoo has made comments on the number of staff to children ratios. These comments would be better aimed at the departments setting the standards. These employ the professionals who dictate to childcare centres what the ratios should be.

In reference to money and equipment purchases: I, like all those in business, have a budget. Community centres also have budgets. It is not possible to go out and randomly spend money. I have a monthly budget for the centre including provision for the children, for staff and to maintain the centre inside and out. I also get an extra equipment budget every second month. If I need to buy anything else or have an emergency situation, I ask for what I need, and I have not as yet been knocked back.

Why does Mr Donahoo say “private childcare is limited in its ability to support the development of our children and make informed decisions about our children's early years”? I have staff with the same training as those who work in community childcare: All qualified staff study the same courses. I have a Bachelor of Teaching and a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education. My staff understand policies and procedures; they understand their duty of care towards children; and, they understand and implement quality childcare practises as set out by Standards and Licensing and the Accreditation council.

Mr Donahoo suggests that there is no “quality” in private centres. However we have National Childcare Accreditation Council who visit private and community centres. Every childcare centre in Australia must work towards and achieve standards set out by the NCAC. These are the people regulating the quality of childcare.

I would like to know what childcare experience Mr Donohoo has. I would also like to know how he can criticise an industry he seems to know little about. Maybe he should research what he writes about by visiting maybe 20 or 30 different centres and then he will better able to comment.

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About the Author

Stephanie Rowland has a Bachelor of Junior Primary Teaching and
a Bachelor of Early Childhood Education. She has taught in Australia and the UK and is the director of a commercial childcare centre.

Related Links
Daniel Donahoo's article Private childcare is big business that is about to get bigger
National Childcare Accreditation Council
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