Childcare Compare

Reporter: Natalie Bonjolo

For many parents, the biggest decision isn't returning to work, it's where to leave their children, when they do ... Chantelle says "your leaving them with, I suppose sort of strangers, so yeah you want to feel comfortable that you know whilst your at work your kids are really happy" With Australia experiencing a second baby boom, childcare is big business. There's hundreds of centres offering families the best possible care for their bub ... but for many Mums and Dads, it's a minefield. Katherine says "a lot of it is word of mouth , I'm lucky I've got lots of friends my age with kids my age in my area, but if you don't then I guess it is pot luck"

So how do parents pick the good from the bad? Well, we set that exact task for four Perth Mums. To find us their top five favourite places ... Katherine says "so obviously the first thing is are they accredited, or what accreditation do they have?" First, Katherine, Amanda, Erica, and Sue came up with their list of the most important issues when searching for daycare. Erica says "What about menu? What about the type of food on the menu, is it a healthy menu" And Sue agrees "yeah that's a big issue for me, especially with Dillon having his allergies, so are they aware of that and do they have a nut policy"

With eight children between them and three on the way ... our panel of Mums have plenty experience. Sue says "another question we should ask is about security.. and also about collections so only allowing authorized people to enter and I know at one day care centre Max was at they had a pin code system" Once they put together a questionnaire, they hit the phones. Calling forty childcare businesses in several suburbs ... questions cover accreditation ... learning programs ... staffing including qualifications, maturity, turnover, and child to carer ratio ... safety issues such as fencing, security and sun shade ... menu plans, do they cater for allergies and nutritional value ... play areas, are they safe and shaded from the sun ... does the centre have adequate security ... and is there an open and accountable illness policy.

Sue says "the best thing is to be very thorough when your talking to these people, ask the questions, don't be embarrassed to ask the questions" With the results of their survey, they narrowed down they're top ten places. The next step, was to visit them ... Erica says "some of the ones I called were fantastic over the phone, brilliant I had ticks all over my form, really excited, the people were really into it, then to go and have a look was quiet a shock"

While letting your fingers do the walking is a good start, Head of WA's Childcare Association Australia, Bernadette Giambazi believes nothing beats old fashioned leg work. "The things that I think they're going to look for are first of all the environment, a pleasing respectful environment" The quality of childcare across the country is assessed by Government watchdog, the National Childcare Accreditation Council.

Businesses have to pass seven criteria to earn accreditation, and while it must be displayed for parents to see, Bernadette believes it doesn't tell them enough. We have one level of accreditation so I can be on a particular level, and someone down the road is on the same level, and going into those services you find the environment is totally different"

It was only when they visited a place, they could accurately rate it. After touring ten centres, our panel picked their top five, in no particular order ...

  • Kidz Galore Childcare in Yokine
  • Catherine McAuley Daycare Centre in Wembley
  • Woodlands Childcare and Learning Centre
  • ABC in Queens Park and Swanbourne

Kidz Galore in Yokine is fully accredited, has 41 childcare places and costs $65 dollars a day. Our panel liked it because it's clean, has friendly staff, and plenty of creative activities for all ages. "For your centres, what's important? For me, definitely hygiene is a big part, but that's a legacy of being a nurse ... programming my staff are very important we are a family business so our staff tend to stay a long time and there's good continuity for the children"

Catherine McAuley in Wembly is fully accredited, has 125 places, and costs $62.50 a day. The panel chose it for it's big playgrounds, professional staff, and a daily communication book between parents and carers. "That indicates what they've eaten for each day, whether they've been happy for the day, and what they've actually done"

Woodlands Childcare is accredited, has 33 places, and costs $58 dollars a day for babies, and $54 dollars a day for toddlers Our mums picked it for it's mature staff, sun smart playground and small family feel, "I just feel the smaller ones are a little bit more comforting for children"

Our panel of Mums say it's important to remember that childcare is a very personal choice, but there are three important steps. Ask plenty of questions, visit as many places as you can, and always go with your gut instinct. Amanda says "what we chose as out top 5 aren't going to be the same for everyone, so long as you feel happy that your child is getting the best possible care and that at the end of the day you can feel happy about leaving them there"