By Amy SunseriJune 30, 2014
As Suzette Gray's family started to grow, her Family time was decreasing.
That's because her husband and Gray had to work opposite shifts and did not have much time together with their Family. It was not an ideal situation for their Family. When Gray's husband got orders to deploy to Bosnia, the couple had five children.
Gray was working nights and knew something needed to change. One day, while at a park with her younger children, she met a Family Child Care provider who told her about the FCC program that changed her life. The FCC provider explained to Gray that she could both work and still be able to take care of her own children through a program provided by the Army's Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Directorate.
"I was excited to find a career that allowed me to support my Family and take care of them at the same time. My children are all grown now -- 28, 26, 25, 19 and 17 -- but I am still a provider. I love my job," Gray stated.
For the past 17 years Gray has been a Family Child Care, or FCC, provider.
"I love this program. It has afforded me to make a living and still be with my own children. But most of all, it has allowed me to help other children and Families," said Gray.
The Fort Huachuca Family Child Care Program is offered both in housing on Fort Huachuca and off post. The developmental program is supported by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and under their guidelines.
The FCC Program provides care for children 6 weeks through age 12, who are registered through the Child, Youth and School Services Parent Central Office. Providers are allowed to have up to six children in their care, which includes their own children under 8.
Some providers like Joanne Johnson offer extended hours to accommodate parents who require routine evening care, work unusual or long hours, or have mission-related childcare needs that require childcare services for more than 12 hours per day.
"Our program supports the readiness of Soldiers by reducing the lost duty time related to the conflict between parental responsibilities and unit mission requirement. I offer extended care for those single parents that have staff duty or are being called in for field exercises. I provide an environment that balances both the Family and children's needs," Johnson explained.
Johnson has been an FCC provider for eight years. She said the children's days are full of learning activities which hone basic fine motor skills, develop gross motor skills, and guide the children's behavior through activities such as sharing and taking turns. Johnson said these basic skills help get young children ready for kindergarten.
Before Johnson and Gray opened up their homes, they had to go through extensive training to become FCC providers. First they had to complete a 40-hour New Provider Training, which includes the following classes: Child Abuse Prevention and Identification; Guidance and Discipline; Developmentally Appropriate Activities; CPR [Cardiopulmonary resuscitation]; First Aid; Administering Medications; Communicable Diseases; Rules and Regulations; Nutrition; and United States Department of Agriculture, USDA, requirements.
Prospective providers must also pass extensive backgrounds checks for themselves, their spouses, and any children over 12 residing in the homes. They are also required to pass inspections by fire, safety and health officials.
Once providers open their homes for business, they are required to continue their training and receive unannounced home visits conducted by the FCC director and training specialist, as well as annual inspections by fire, safety and health personnel.
"When this training is completed, the provider still must take annual training. Each provider needs to attend monthly meetings and additional child care training," added Gray.
All providers are also trained and participate in the USDA Child and Adult Care Food Program. Providers submit menus for approval before the meals are served in their homes. Unannounced home visits during meal times are conducted to ensure meals are both nutritious and prepared safely.
FCC providers are private contractors, but the rates they charge are the same as those charged by the Child Development Center and School-Age Services Programs on post. There are some providers residing on Fort Huachuca and in Sierra Vista who are also certified through the Department of Economic Security to offer more affordable childcare.
"Parents are always welcome to come visit us during our work hours and observe their own children. We encourage parents to participate in our daily activity plans," Johnson further explained.
No experience is necessary to become an FCC provider. However, prospective providers must be at least 18; speak, read and write English; complete all required trainings; and satisfactorily complete all background checks and home inspections.
The next FCC provider training on Fort Huachuca will begin on July 9. Training is held three half-days weekly for three weeks.
For more information about the program or to register for the upcoming training, contact the FCC director, 520.533.2498 or firstname.lastname@example.org.