Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Day care is the care of a child during the day by a person other than the child's parents or legal guardians, often someone outside the child's immediate family. Day care centers are known in British English as crèches.
Day care could be regarded as a specific type of babysitting; however, the two terms have somewhat different connotation. Whereas babysitting can refer to such care on an occasional basis, day care usually refers to a more permanent arrangement. For example, a child may spend a few days a week in day care while the parents work. Additionally, babysitting is often provided by amateurs (for example, parents might hire a local teenager for babysitting, while hiring the same individual to provide day care would be much rarer, though not unheard of.)
Day care is often provided to children from several families at the same time, in the home of the day care worker or in a specialized day care facility. Some employers provide day care for their employees at or near the place of employment.
Day care in the child's own home is traditionally provided by a nanny.
Day care industry
The day care industry is a continuum from personal parental care to large, regulated institutions. The vast majority of childcare is still performed by the parents, in house nanny or through informal arrangements with relatives, neighbours or friends. For example, in Canada, among two parent families with at least one working parent, 62% of parents handle the childcare themselves, 32% have other in-home care (nannies, relatives, neighbours or friends) and only 6.5% use a formal day care centre.
Where the market is sufficiently large or there are government subsidies for daycare, for-profit corporate day care exists. Bright Horizons Family Solutions is the largest such company. It is a publicly-traded company operating over 500 daycare centres. The Australian government's childcare subsidy has allowed the creation of a large private-sector industry in that country. Another factor favouring large corporate day cares is the existence of childcare facilities in the workplace. Large corporations will not handle this employee benefit directly themselves and will seek out large corporate providers to manage their corporate daycares. Most smaller, for-profit day cares operate out of a single location.
Non-profit day cares have some structural advantages over for-profit operations. They may receive preferential treatment in rents especially if they are affliated with a church that is otherwise unoccupied during the week, or with a school that has surplus space. Location within a school may further bring the advantage of coordinated programs with the school and the advantage of a single location for parents who have older school-age children as well. Parents are typically the legal owners of the non-profit day care and will routinely provide consulting services (e.g. accounting, legal, human resource) for free. Non-profits have an advantage in fund-raising as most people will not donate to a for-profit organization. Non-profits, however, are typically limited in size to a single location as the parent-owners have no motivation to manage other locations where their children are not present. They may suffer from succession issues as children grow and parents leave the management of the day care to others. Local governments, often municipalities, may operate non-profit day care centres.
Home day cares are operated by a single individual out of their home. This is often a stay-at-home parent who seeks supplemental income while caring for their own child. Local legislation may regulate the number and ages of children allowed before the home is considered an official day care centre and subject to more stringent safety regulations. Some home day cares operate illegally with respect to tax legislation where the care provider does not report fees as income and the parent does not receive a receipt to qualify for childcare tax deductions. As home day cares do not pay rent, they are typically less expensive than day care centres.
Franchising of home day cares attempts to bring economies of scale to home day cares. A central operator handles marketing, administration and perhaps some central purchasing while the actual care occurs in individual homes. The central operator may provide training to the individual care providers.
For all providers, the largest expense is labour. In a 1999 Canadian survey of formal child care centres, labour accounts for 63% of costs and the industry had an average profit of 5.3%. Given the labour intensive nature of the industry, it is not surprising that the same survey showed little economies of scale between larger and smaller operators.
Local legislation may regulate the operation of day care centres. The legislation will define what constitutes a day care (so as to not regulate individual baby sitters). It may specify the physical facilities (washroom, eating, sleeping, lighting levels, etc). The minimum window space may be such that it precludes day cares from being in a basement. It may specify the minimum floor space per child (e.g. 2.8 square metres) and the maximum number of children per room (e.g. 24). It may mandate minimum outdoor time (e.g. 2 hours for programs 6 hours or longer). It may mandate staffing ratios (e.g. 1:3 for under 18 months, 1:5 for 18-30 months, 1:8 for over 30 months) and qualifications of supervisors. Staff typically do not require any qualifications.
The workforce is predominantly female (95%) and low paid, averaging only 60% of average workforce wage. Many employees are at local minimum wage and are typically paid by the hour rather than salaried. In non-profits, the title of the most senior supervisor is typically "executive director", following the convention of most non-profit organizations.
There are often local industry assocations that lobby governments on childcare policy and promote the industry to the public.
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