LITTLE HELPER
Trent Grimes, 4, turns the page for the rest of his Family Child Care friends. Grimes' mother Jamie is an FCC provider, who chose the profession as a way to be home with Trent.

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. -- "I love you, Miss Jamie."

They are the tender words of a 2-year-old, but to the providers of Redstone Arsenal's Family Child Care those three little words speak volumes.

On the outside, Jamie Grimes' home looks like any other on post, but a peek inside finds little minds are at work, reading, singing, counting and playing, just another day at the office for Grimes in her career as a family child care provider.

FCC, similar to the Child Development Center, provides parents on post with options for their children, placing them into a smaller, more home-like atmosphere for childcare. Rather than going to a larger center for daily care, like the CDC, children go the childcare provider's home, located on post, where they develop motor, cognitive, social and emotional skills through learning activities, planned curriculum and one-on-one time.

"It's fun," Grimes said. "We get to go on field trips, go to the library. Because you have a smaller group you have a closer relationship with the kids and it gives you more leeway for activities."

For Tina Abel, moving her daughter Alexis, 2, from the CDC to an FCC home was a matter of keeping her health in check by exposing her to fewer children. Not only has Alexis spent less time coughing and sneezing since she transitioned to an FCC home, she's also had more one-on-one time with her FCC provider, Marlene Burnette, and mom can always drop by to say hello.

"It's a home atmosphere and I love that," Abel said. "It's a smaller number of children and more one on one."

The general ratio for an FCC home is six children, said Linda Smith, FCC director and assistant director of the CDC, including the provider's own children. Smaller numbers transform an FCC home from a classroom to a family.

"This is low scale for the kids," Burnette said. "They don't have to compete for attention. We can give them that extra attention in the home."

"Having more one-on-one times makes a huge difference," Grimes agreed. "Providers aren't changing. It's me. They're like my children."

While the home environment makes some parents leery, Smith and Andre Terry, chief of Child Youth and School Services, guarantee that an FCC home is not only just as safe, but equally educational when compared to the CDC.

"One of the misconceptions is that if it's in someone's home, it is not safe," Terry said. "Although the FCC is in a person's home, they have to go through the same requirements. There is that safeguard and that security. The only difference is the building. Everything is done seamlessly between the two."

FCC providers go through a series of requirements to ensure that both they and their home is a safe environment for children. Providers undergo a physical and background check, all members of the home over 12 years old also undergo a background check. Twenty hours of training in topics such as first aid, nutrition and safety is completed, as well as inspections by the fire marshal, safety officer and community health nurse. Smith regularly makes random visits to the homes.

"You want parents to be able to come and know it is safe," Grimes said of the safety requirements. "It's that reassurance to parents."

In addition to the safety and training requirements, parents, providers and children also interview with each other prior to placement to make sure that the relationship is the best match for all parties involved.

FCC not only allows growth for the children, but also for the provider, who is able to not only work out of her home, but also grow in her education in childcare.

Burnette turned to providing childcare out of her home to reduce costs when she was a single mom and stay close to her son, but over 20 years and several installations later, has found FCC to be her calling.

"This is my passion," Burnette said. "I'm still able to be a mother."

FCC is also used for overflow for the Child Development Center. If placement with the CDC is not available, Smith said, parents have the option of placing their child in an FCC home in the meantime.

"The standards are high," Terry said of childcare available to parents on Redstone. "When you look at Redstone childcare criteria, not only are we competitive in price, it's that convenience of having your child on post."

Four FCCs are in place on Redstone, but with the expected growth in the coming years, Child Youth and School Services is seeking more providers. If you are interested in becoming a provider, call Smith at 682-3275.

Page last updated Mon February 22nd, 2010 at 13:24