1. The direct costs to parents/ caregivers
At playcentres and centres that rely on parent help the average hourly attendance charge is around $1- $2 or $5 -$6 for a 3 hour session. Some services ask for a donation instead of a fixed charge.
At centres that employ staff, the average hourly charge is around $4.50 to $6.50 an hour per preschool aged child. Charges for under-two-year-olds are usually at the higher end because services are required to have at least 1 adult to every 4 children under 2 years as compared to a minimum of 1 adult to 10 children over 2 years in full-day services (though services do receive a higher funding rate from government which is expected to cover the additional staffing cost for under 2s). If you are paying more than $8.00 an hour you are probably being charged too much, unless the service is providing much more than other early childhood services.
Government policy is that a serive can not charge parents fees for any attendance up to 6 hours a day with a maximum of the first 20 hours, for any child who is 3 years or older and if it claims 20 Hour ECE funding from the Ministry of Education. Parents can refuse to pay any additional charge asked by the service for care within the 6 hour day - 20 hour week limit.
Many services say that the extra funding they receive for children under the 20 hour top-up means they would be losing out financially if they made it free for families, and ask parents to volunteer to pay a fee or may require childrento be enrolled for longer hours so that a higher fee can be charged for the hours outside of the first 6 hours in a day or first 20 hours in the week.
A service that provides more than is required by regulation may ask parents whose children are on the 20 hour ECE funding rate to pay a fee to cover the difference between the 20 hour funding rate and what the usual fee charge is. The service must be able to tell parents what they are providing that is more than required by the early childhood regulations and criteria and other legislation, and the additional charge should reflect only the cost of this. This is called an 'optional charge'.
Parents are advised to check the fees policy to see if they will be required to pay fees for hours they do not use or don't need including statutory holidays, absences, and when the service may have a forced shut down due to something like a prolonged power cut or to contain the spread of an infectious disease (e.g. measles or swine flu).
Parents may be invoiced for things like a parent levy in lieu of fundraising and compulsory memberships to associations the service belongs to - again parents can question this.
Services may ask parents to provide or pay for things like tissue boxes, new building levy, outings and excursions, lunches and snacks, nappy washing etc.
Some services charge an enrolment fee which may not be refundable if parents change their mind. The fee is often kept by the service as an administration fee and is not deducted from the first childcare fee payment which can seem unfair.
2. The Indirect Costs
Apart from fees, parents have the cost of travel to and from the service - and possibly parking charges too!.
Other costs may include buying a lunch-box and drink bottle and school bag, clothing and sunhats as might be stipulated by the service.
Providing extra bits of money for whatever might be organised by the service e.g. gold coin charges for dress-up days, raffle tickets, paying a charge for visiting artists or shows the children may be taken to.
When parents donate their time - this can cost in lost wages and in lost time that could be spent doing other things. Voluntary contributions may include mowing the lawn, taking the aprons home to wash, participating in and organising fund-raisers, participating in parent committees or giving time in consultation meetings or filling out questionnaires.
A significant cost for many parents especially during the first year of care is the cost of sickness and staying at home and taking time off from work to care for their sick child.
Additional information on child sickness, policies, and practices is available for ChildForum members at this link.