FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- When Kasey Tanner gave birth to her second child in 2006 while she and her husband were stationed in Kaiserslautern, Germany, she said she realized she needed to earn money to help support their growing family.
But with the costs of child care, and a desire to stay home with her new baby, Tanner decided she should start a business she could operate within her own home.
With the advice of a friend, Tanner became certified as a Family Child Care provider.
"One of the best decisions of my life," she said.
Four years later, here at Fort Jackson, Tanner continues to provide to children what she calls "a home away from home."
"It's a place the children can come, that's familiar to them, in a home environment, where there's one person they know is going to be there every day to take care of them," Tanner said.
It's a job that she absolutely loves, she said.
"I really love being able to see the children learn," she said. "Just watching them put something together, reaching milestones - being able to watch them grow and knowing that you're a part of that, I think it's amazing."
She said she encourages other Army spouses to become providers.
So does Inza Downing, Fort Jackson's FCC director.
Currently, Fort Jackson only has three FCC providers on post, and three off post, Downing said.
"A lot of providers (made permanent changes of duty station) during the summer, but we know we have new families who have recently moved on post," she said. "We want these new families to learn more about FCC because we need more providers to come on board."
Downing said that Fort Jackson's FCC program offers free training and helps defray start-up costs for military family members interested in becoming providers. Fort Jackson's FCC gives up to $500 worth of start-up materials, and many furniture items, toys and other materials can be borrowed from the FCC's Lending Library.
FCC providers must first register and go through a certification process that includes background checks; home inspections by fire, safety and health officials; 40 hours of initial child care training, including caring for special needs, child abuse prevention, CPR and first aid training; completion of activity schedules and plans; and successful completion of training on contingency plans, discipline and touch policies.
"FCC providers must meet many of the same requirements staff at the child development centers on post must meet," said Edie McFaddin, Fort Jackson's FCC Training and Curriculum Specialist.
"The quality of care is just as high in a Family Child Care home as it is in the center setting," McFaddin said.
But as independent contractors, FCC providers set their own operating hours, decide their own fees and negotiate their own contracts.
"Often, they can be more flexible in meeting the parents' needs," Downing said. "And with a small ratio of children, they a lot of times offer more one-on-one time with each child."
Many FCC providers operate multi-age homes with a mandated limit of six children. Their own children younger than 8 count in the ratio.
For example, Tanner, who cares for her own children, ages 6 and 4, can only provide child care services for four additional children in her home. No more than two children can be younger than 2, and infant/toddler homes can have no more than three children younger than 3.
Downing said the FCC program will certify homes off post that are registered with the Department of Social Services. HOPS, as they are called, abide by both Fort Jackson's FCC regulations, as well as South Carolina's child care laws, adhering to those that are the most stringent.
"A lot of providers find that it works for their families," McFaddin said. "They're able to stay at home, enjoy being with their own children and earn additional income."
Downing said anyone interested in becoming an FCC provider should contact her immediately to register for the next training orientation, which is scheduled for Oct.18-22. She said she and her team will work with any transferring provider from another installation to "fast-track" the process and get them on board much sooner.
For more information, contact Downing at 751-6234.
In the know
The next Family Child Care orientation/training is scheduled for 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 18 through 22 at the Joe E. Mann Center. The FCC program offers an employment opportunity for military spouses who enjoy working with children. The program is recruiting for "best-qualified" applicants who have space and are willing to take full-time children younger than 2.
Military spouses living on Fort Jackson and Department of Social Services-registered off-post child care providers may apply to become certified to provide home child care to military families. An amnesty program is available for those currently providing child care on post without certification. Applications will be accepted through Oct. 8.