Child care or day care is the care of a child during the day by a person other than the child's legal guardians, typically performed by someone outside the child's immediate family. Day care is typically an ongoing service during specific periods, such as the parents' time at work. The service is known as child care in the United Kingdom, crèche in Ireland and New Zealand, and child care or day care in North America and Australia (although child care also has a broader meaning). The vast majority of childcare is still performed by the parents, in-house nannies or through informal arrangements with relatives, neighbors or friends. Child care in the child's own home is traditionally provided by a nanny or au pair, or by extended family members including grandparents, aunts and uncles. Child care is provided in nurseries or crèches or by a nanny or family child care provider caring for children in their own homes. It can also take on a more formal structure, with education, child development, discipline and even preschool education falling into the fold of services.
The day care industry is a continuum from personal parental care to large, regulated institutions. Some childminders care for children from several families at the same time, either in their own home (commonly known as "family day care" in Australia) or in a specialized child care facility. Some employers provide nursery provisions for their employees at or near the place of employment. For-profit day care corporations often exist where the market is sufficiently large or there are government subsidies. Research shows that not-for-profits are much more likely to produce the high quality environments in which children thrive." Local governments, often municipalities, may operate non-profit day care centers. For all providers, the largest expense is labor. Local legislation may regulate the operation of daycare centers, affecting staffing requirements. In Canada, the workforce is predominantly female (95%) and low paid, averaging only 60% of average workforce wage. Some jurisdictions require licensing or certification. Legislation may specify details of the physical facilities (washroom, eating, sleeping, lighting levels, etc.).
Independent studies suggest that good daycare is not harmful. In some cases, good daycare can provide different experiences than parental care does, especially when children reach two and are ready to interact with other children. Children in higher quality childcare had somewhat better language and cognitive development during the first 4½ years of life than those in lower quality care.
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