Returning to work is stressful, particularly when it comes to organising child care. You worry about whether you’ll get a place in a good child care centre. You worry about how you’ll cope without your child all day, and about how they’ll cope in their new environment. You worry that you won’t get a child care place at all.

Sitting and worrying is not going to help you. What helps is taking action. But what action should you take?

Good question. Let’s start by looking at how centres allocate places, and go from there.

How places are allocated

Most people think you just put your name on the list, and wait for a place. But many centres have priority access guidelines, which means that some children move up the wait list more quickly.

Some centres give priority to employees from certain organisations, or industries. This generally relates to daycare centres that are set up, or funded by, large organisations or government departments. The centre will tell you if this is the case.

Most centres also give priority to siblings. So, if you have one child in a centre, you’re more likely to get a place for your other children. This makes sense, because the centres are family focused, and want to keep families together.

Government guidelines in Australia also require child care benefit approved providers to fast track certain kids. The three priorites for daycare places are:

  • First Priority: a child at risk of serious abuse or neglect
  • Second Priority: children of parents who are both satisfy the work/training/study test.
  • Third Priority: any other child.

Piority is also often given to:

  • Children in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander families
  • Children in families that include a person with a disability
  • Children in families where one partner is on income support
  • Children in families from a non-English speaking background
  • Children of single parents

If you fall into any of the categories above then ensure you tick the relevant box when you complete your wait list applications.

If you don’t fall into any of these categories, don’t worry. A lot of people aren’t in this categories, and they still find a place!

The key to reducing your stress

Remember all those worries we discussed? Worries about your child coping with child care, you coping without seeing your child all day, and how to get a place? You can alleviate those worries by taking action. Because once you know that you’re doing everything you can to get a place in a great centre, with great care, you’ll be a lot less stressed.


Even if you start to worry, you’ll be able to tell yourself that you are doing everything you can. You’ll feel comforted because you’re taking action, and making progress.  Taking action is empowering, whereas sitting and worrying is disempowering – it strips you of your power.

So, back to the key question. What action should you take?

Check out this insiders guide to getting a place. If you haven’t started planning early (step 1), skip that and start with step 2. You’ll be back in control in no time!

Insiders Guide – how to get your child into daycare

  1. Start your planning early, putting your child’s name on a waiting list at least 12 months before you need it will give you a better chance of finding a place where you want it when you need it.
  2. If you definitely need a spot by a certain time then ensure you are on multiple wait lists.
  3. Call the centres you are listed with at least once every month to touch base and confirm you’re still keen to get a place (the squeaky wheel may get the grease!).
  4. If you go away for an extended period of time leave alternative contact details. You don’t wantto miss out on a place because they couldn’t get hold of you.
  5. Enrol your kids in the same service; siblings get priority on the wait list in most centres.
  6. Be flexible in your approach, accept care earlier or on different days to what you planned. Once you are a clientyou will have opportunities to change your days.
  7. Stay on the wait list at your first choice service even if you accept a spot elsewhere. Once you have paid your wait list fee you don’t have to renew it.

Want to find out more about all your child care options, and get a bunch of free resources?

Check out my free training: what every parent must know about child care. And if you’re returning to work soon, don’t miss how to beat the back to work blues.

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