By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterApril 20, 2017
FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- The Fort Rucker Child Development Center and Mini CDC serve as the main resources for parents on the installation when it comes to childcare, but some people might prefer childcare with a more intimate setting that also includes the same high standards.
That's what the Fort Rucker Family Child Care program provides with in-home child care for up to six children in a home-like environment where children receive the same level of care and education that they would at one of the centers, according to Monteka Freeman, FCC director and Mini CDC assistant director.
"Family child care is in-home childcare that is provided by spouses that live in housing on the installation," said Freeman. "These providers are basically self-employed daycares, but they fall under [child and youth services] guidelines as far as their training and regulations."
All FCC providers must go through the same training and certifications that CYS program assistants and staff members must complete, including first-aid and CPR certification, safety, health and guidance. This also encompasses social and emotional development training, added Kimberly Cardwell, FCC training and curriculum specialist.
"Their training is a pretty intensive yearlong training," she said. "Before they are able to care for any children, they must have basic child development training, guidance training and proper medical emergency training."
The providers must also learn to administer any type of medication that is required of them, such as epinephrine injections and nebulizers, Cardwell added.
Each of the providers must also go through child abuse training, so they are able to recognize the signs of child abuse and understand what is classified as child abuse, not just with the children, but with the parents, she said, so the level of childcare provided is up to par with what is available at either of the centers.
In addition to the certification and training, each provider's home must pass and adhere to fire, health and safety inspections, and the provider, as well as family members living in the home, must go through extensive background checks, said Freeman.
"Each of the providers must go through an interview process, and their spouses must also go through an interview process, and if their children are old enough, they must also go through an interview process, as well," she said. "We conduct formal interviews and inspections to make sure the family will be a good fit for the program -- the process is very thorough."
Although the process may seem overwhelming, it's meant to provide a safe, healthy environment for children. In addition to providing a service for families on post, the program also provides unique employment opportunities for those looking to earn income while working from home, Freeman said.
"This program allows providers to have the flexibility to still spend the time with their family and still be a 'stay-at-home family,' but still take care of other children, bring in income and pursue what they want to do," she said.
"This is a great opportunity for stay-at-home moms," added Cardwell. "If you have a child at home and you're really not ready to go back to work but you want some income, it's a great opportunity."
Cinthia Gonzales, FCC provider, is currently the only provider on the installation and recently accepted the first child into her program in her home.
Gonzalez began the process to become an FCC provider while in Germany, and completed the process when she arrived at Fort Rucker. She said it's a great opportunity for stay-at-home mothers.
"I can stay at home and make some income, and take care of my baby while I'm working," she said, adding that although the process to become a provider is extensive, it's well worth the effort. "Don't be afraid to do it. [The process] seems like a lot, but it's not hard at all. People just need to be really patient on the process."
Freeman said the program is a win-win for providers and families, and the need for quality childcare is out there, which is what she hopes the FCC will be able to provide on a more extensive scale.
"Anyone can babysit, but when you have a provider that has gone through [this level of] training, they're not in it just for the money," she said. "There is a need for this because there are times when we can't accommodate (everyone) here at the centers because we're full or we don't have the space available for the age group that needs it, so to be able to have the FCC provider that can offer the same thing that the centers can offer should mean a lot to not only the parent, but the child, as well."
For more information on the FCC program, call 255-3066 or 255-3106.