When you are looking for care options for your children, you have a long checklist. You want a clean, safe environment, where they will be watched over by loving adults who understand how important their job of caring for someone else’s children is. You want your child to make friends, learn, and play. Any childcare centre can make a nice website, so how do you decide?
Early Childhood Australia has published a framework of best practices for professionals in early childcare settings. This framework sets a standard for the qualities parents want to see in individuals who care for children. In Sydney childcare centres and in centres around the country, practitioners follow core principles in their daily decision making and actions that value their colleagues, the children in their care, those children’s families, and the community.
If you’ve ever worked in an environment where the staff doesn’t get along, you understand how detrimental that morale can be to the quality of the work and your experience in that workplace. Oftentimes, this type of discord is a result of a lack of shared vision. In a childcare setting, you want to see vision statements readily available for carers and parents to see. This regular reminder helps to keep everyone centred on their mission. Look for a childcare centre with a clear leader who is dedicated to continued education of his or her staff. The ECA principles emphasise professional relationships built on trust, respect, and honesty, and encourage the development of teamwork, mentoring relationships, and communication.
A childcare team who works well together can more readily focus on providing excellent care. The ECA principles encourage the development of a safe, healthy, and inclusive environment where children can learn and play. Children should be encouraged to have agency which looks like carers being attentive to their interests and needs as well as balancing the development of their future potential with their current role as play-loving children. Carers model good citizenship through their acceptance of all children regardless of background or identity, through the teaching of relational skills, and by supporting the relationships between children and their families. These principles should be observable in each carer’s interaction with any child at their centre.
While you’re choosing someone else to care for your child while you work, you are still the parent. Another important quality to look for when choosing a childcare centre is the way that centre staff interacts with families. As the parent, you want to feel that your knowledge of your child is valued by the care team. You want to know that your family’s religious and cultural values will be respected. You want a partner in your child’s care and open communication is the first step in that partnership. Look for an environment where you feel that you are as welcome as your child is.
A final principle that ECA encourages is how childcare professionals interact with their community. Does the childcare centre value interaction with the community? Are they regularly seeking out programmes and resources that would benefit the children now and in the future? If your child has special needs, is there a partnership between the daycare and community programmes that would support your child’s transition to a community-based setting? Wherever you live, a childcare centre that values community is an advocate for all children in that community and actively participates in making excellent care accessible to all children.
When choosing childcare for your family, it’s important to look for the ways that these professional principles play out in real time. Visit any childcare centres you are considering and look for carers who embody the qualities you hope your children will emulate.
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