Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
When part of a military family, it can be difficult for a spouse to establish a career for himself or herself because of frequent moves, sometimes limiting the ability to bring a second income into the home. If a spouse is able to find work but the family has small children, they then have to pay for child care, depleting the extra income.
Child and Youth Services has a solution — Family Child Care.
“Child and Youth Services Family Child Care is a program that allows spouses to be employed in their homes on the installation … and be their own employer,” said Carole Hoffman, CYS coordinator. “They are not CYS employees, but it gives them an opportunity to have an income, still be at home with their own children and to support the mission of the installation by providing much needed childcare for soldiers and civilians.”
FCC providers are paid directly by the parents of the children they care for and receive subsidies from CYS, which can add up to as much as an extra $3,000 of income per month depending on the number of children the provider has in the home.
“It really is dependent on the provider,” Hoffman said.
Additionally, once a provider has gone through the training and preparation process for the first time, the only thing he or she is required to do upon transferring to a new duty station is have the new home inspected.
“It is one of those jobs that truly moves with you,” Hoffman said.
As with any job, there are eligibility requirements to be an FCC provider. All providers must be an Army spouse, live in on-post quarters and be at least 18 years old. Additionally, every person in the home over the age of 12 must have a background check.
“Also, if you’re coming in as a military spouse, your spouse’s command must sign-off knowledge that you’re doing this in the home,” said Ashley Parsons, CYS Parent Central and Outreach Services assistant director.
Once background checks are complete, which Hoffman said roughly take no more than a month, training and preparing and inspecting the home begins.
FCC providers receive the same training CYS child care center employees receive, including child safety and fire prevention; emergency health and safety procedures; child abuse prevention; health and sanitation; safe infant sleep practices and more. Additionally, FCC providers receive business operations courses, which teach them how to file taxes and write contracts between themselves and the parents.
“Our goal is to set them up for complete success,” Hoffman said.
As part of that set up for success, Hoffman said FCC trainers help providers create lesson plans and meal plans, and Parsons will help them prepare their home. Preparing the home includes having cleaning supplies locked up, outlets covered, gates in front of stairs, any weapons on a separate floor and locked up with ammunition in a separate location, and addressing any other safety concerns such as fire evacuation procedures. Also, play areas, napping areas and eating areas need to be established.
“Opening an FCC home is not that different than toddler-proofing your house,” Hoffman said. “Our expectation is not that you turn your home into a center. We don’t want you to gut your living room. We encourage you to keep it looking like your home.”
Hoffman said CYS also has a lending library, which includes large items such as strollers, book shelves and mats for nap time and smaller items such as toys and different story kits.
“Literally, you can open your home for zero-cost investment,” Hoffman said.
From start to finish, a provider can have their home ready for opening in as little as two months.
“Once the background checks are back, the provider drives a lot of how quickly this train moves,” Hoffman said.
Providers also can make their own scheduling as long as there are no more than six children in the home at one time. The provider’s own children under the age of 8 are counted in that ratio. Additionally, there can be no more than two children under 2 in the home at the same time. Providers can mix and match with full-time care and hourly care, too, as long as the above criteria are met.
“They can piece that puzzle together however they want,” Parsons said.
All the preferences of the FCC provider are put together on a profile on militarychildcare.com. The providers waitlist is also handled through the website. On the profile, providers can also disclose certain information such as whether there are pets in the home, if the home prays at meals or whether certain holidays are celebrated so that parents can determine whether a home is a good fit.
Though there are currently no FCC providers on post, Sara Thompson, CYS training specialist, said she was a provider for three years.
“I loved being able to welcome children and families into my home on a daily basis. I was able to structure my FCC program to the needs of the children I had in care,” Thompson said. “The ability to watch them grow and learn was such an amazing feeling of accomplishment and pride.
“When families entrust you with their most precious gift, their child, I see that as a pretty big honor,” she said. “These children and families I cared for would start as strangers, but they always left with a huge piece of my heart and a part of my extended military family. Many, I still am in contact with to this day.”
Thompson said it was a great benefit to her own family, too.
“When I started FCC, my own child was struggling with autism and being in large environments, so working outside the home wasn’t a choice,” Thompson said. “FCC gave me an opportunity to help support my family financially, but also help my daughter socially by allowing her to learn how to play and learn alongside other children.
“FCC is a great opportunity for a spouse who would like to make a good income without working outside the home,” she said. “I am so glad I took the time to go through the process and become an FCC provider for CYS. I know that I wouldn’t be where I am today if I hadn’t taken the leap.”
Outside of CYS centers, FCC homes are the only authorized child care on military installations. To begin the process of becoming an FCC provider, e-mail Parsons at firstname.lastname@example.org.