In 1974 the Commonwealth Government adopted the policy that all Australian families with young children should have available to them a comprehensive range of early childhood services, including, in particular, child care. This objective, as is well known, has not been achieved. Only a minority of Australian families in the early 1980s has access to, and uses, formal child care services. This discrepancy between the aims of the early 1970s and the outcomes of the early 1980s stems from both political and economic factors. Between 1976 and 1983, the Commonwealth limited its objectives in the early childhood field to providing services to ‘those in greatest need’, rejecting the aim of universal provision of child care on ideological grounds. The relatively poor state of the economy during these years reinforced this policy of limited involvement in children's services. The return of a Labor Government in March 1983 may result in a return to a commitment to the objective of universal service provision; however, given prevailing economic circumstances and economic policy, it is unlikely that universal access to children's services will be a reality in the near future. In such circumstances, policies concerning the distribution of children's services assume great importance. The two central questions that policy-makers face are: 1. Which kinds of families should be the main recipients of those child care services that are made available through public funds? 2. What strategies will maximise the likelihood that services in fact reach the intended beneficiaries? Given that children's services will be in short supply for the foreseeable future, these issues must be addressed irrespective of whether the policymaker is committed to universal or partial public provision of children's services. In this report, these issues are described as issues of "selectivity". The term "selectivity" is used here in a broad sense to include all measures designed to allocate services to selected groups of the population who are deemed to have needs or characteristics that should be recognised in the form of priority or special consideration. The first section explores the development of selectivity as a policy objective in the Commonwealth Government's Children's Services Program. It addresses two questions: 2 1. What meanings have been given to selectivity by those responsible for the children's services program? 2. What strategies have been used to implement selectivity, and with what effects and consequences? In the second section, the focus switches to the local level, and in particular to the level of the direct service organisation. It is argued in this paper that the policies of child care centres and other early childhood services organisations have an important bearing on which families do, and which families do not, receive children's services. The kinds of agency policies that affect the distribution of services are described, and illustrative data are provided from a study of the allocative policies of early childhood service organisations located in Townsville, Queensland. The argument is made strongly that there is a need for more explicit attention to be paid to the policies and processes that affect the allocation of child care resources.