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Childcare (also written child care[1] and babycare) is the act of caring for and supervising children of any age in a wide variety of settings]]. (In Australia, daycare is referred to as "childcare"—cf.)

Childcare roles

It is traditional in western society for children to be looked after by one or both of their parents, but the need, or preference, for two-job households means that childcare is delegated to Au Pairs, childminders or crèches on a full-time (40hrs) or part-time (< 40hrs) basis.

Most Western countries also have compulsory education during which children are at school starting from 5- or 6-years of age. The school will act in loco parentis meaning "in lieu of parent supervision".

Where parents are missing, dead, unable or unfit to care for children, state agencies such as social services may take on the childcare role.

Another option, that may be more intimate and often keeps children in their own home setting is through the use of nannies or an au pair. Additionally, parents may opt to have their own family members watch their children.

In the United States, childcare in regulated commercial or family childcare home setting is administered or lead by teachers who may have a Child Development Associate or higher credentials. [How to reference and link to summary or text]

The childcare debate

For many, the use of paid childcare is a matter of choice with arguments raging on both sides about whether children suffer or not.

There is no doubt that the first few years of a child's life are vitally important to form a basis for good education, morality, self-discipline and social integration.[How to reference and link to summary or text] Consistency of approach, skills and qualifications of careers and ownership have been shown in many studies to improve the chances of a child reaching his or her full potential.

For example a recent study in Australia[2] concluded centers run by corporate chains provided the lowest quality care when compared to community-based providers and independent private centres.

The challenge of childcare

In many families (and almost exclusively so in some communities), the childcare role is taken on by the extended family. One of the challenges for parents who choose to use other sources of childcare is finding and affording qualified providers.

Some jurisdictions require licensing or certification. Parents may also turn to independent rating services, or rely on recommendations and referrals. Some places develop voluntary quality networks, for example in Australia most childcare services are part of the national Quality Assurance system which ensures they provide good developmental programs.

Many organizations (in the developed world) campaign for free or subsidized childcare for all. Others campaign for tax breaks or allowances to allow parents a non-finance driven choice. Many of the free or subsidized childcare programs in the United States are also Child Development programs, or after school programs which hire certified teachers to teach the children while they are in their care.

Most countries have laws relating to childcare, which seek to prevent and punish child abuse. Such laws may add cost and complexity to childcare provision and may provide tools to help ensure quality childcare.

Finding childcare providers online

The Internet has become a tool for parents and childcare providers to connect.

Online classified ads allow parents to post job offers and childcare providers to post resumes in hopes of connecting with each other via cyberspace. Such postings allow anyone to post almost anything at any time with little monitoring. Services dedicated to matching parents and childcare providers have evolved from for-profit, nonprofit and governmental organizations. Such services generally offer greater screening, than general listing services.

See also


  1. Both childcare and child care are common, acceptable spelling of the word. Child care is the preferred spelling in accordance with AP Style.
  2. 2006, Rush, The Australia Institute

External links

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