Caregivers work from home, benefit community
(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

STUTTGART, Germany -- Family Child Care providers, while operating their own home-based businesses, offer children of working parents a "home away from home."

Opening an FCC home is a business opportunity that helps financially empower military spouses while providing a much-needed service in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart, said Deborah Mandrell, FCC director.

"It takes a lot to be a FCC provider, to open your home and provide help," Mandrell said. "Our base [has many] military spouses who are busy helping raise their own families and helping others with theirs. It's an opportunity for financial independence and career progression."

Currently, there are 12 FCC providers among USAG Stuttgart's housing areas of Patch Barracks, Panzer Kaserne and Robinson Barracks, with none on Kelley Barracks. Ideally, Mandrell said she would like to have 25 providers, with at least three to four per housing area.

Fe Collins, a FCC provider who opened her home on Panzer for business last November, said the ability to work from home while caring for her own children appealed to her.

The mother of two cares for one infant full time and sometimes provides hourly care. "It's nice to work at home and not have to leave my 1-year-old," Collins said. "I've been talking a lot about my business to my friends, and some are getting interested."

Would-be FCC providers must successfully complete background checks, training, home inspections, health assessments and other program requirements. Once certified, providers are continually monitored and must complete ongoing monthly and annual training.

Before an FCC home even opens, the provider receives 40 hours of training in areas that include CPR, first aid, fire safety, developmentally appropriate practices, family-style dining and curriculum/lesson plans, Mandrell said.

Start-up, out-of-pocket costs are minimal - little more than the price of a fire extinguisher and an item such as a baby security gate to separate the kitchen from the rest of the housing unit, if desired, Mandrell said. A government-funded lending library of books, toys, games, puzzles and furniture, such as cubbies, book cases and high chairs, is also available for use by providers.

Benefits include 18 months of paid training that covers 13 professional modules. Those providers interested in seeking college degrees can also receive reimbursement for some of their educational costs.

Mallorie Joyner, who has been an FCC provider on Patch Barracks for about three years, has taken advantage of available training and educational opportunities. Having already earned a Child Development Associate credential, Joyner is currently working on earning a National Association of Family Child Care accreditation.

"The CDA and NAFCC accreditation can be taken anywhere in the U.S. and lets others know that you're serious about your career field and advanced training," Mandrell said. "It opens the doors to employment or opening your own child care business in the civilian sector."

Joyner, who provides full-time, part-time and extended care in her FCC home on Patch, has aspirations of opening her own center when she, her active-duty Navy husband and their two daughters return to the U.S. She envisions owning a child care center that is open from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., seven days a week, and provides a variety of care, including full time and hourly.

"When I get back to the States, I want to get a job in [child care] center management to learn more about the running of the business, so that when I look for that commercial property, I'll have that experience," said Joyner, who also has five years' experience as a Navy FCC provider.

As she worked on an art activity recently with youngsters in her FCC home, Joyner said she couldn't imagine any other career field for herself. "What adult can say they wouldn't enjoy making a full-time paycheck staying at home and playing all day'" she said, as strains of the song "This Old Man" played in the background.

"Sure, it's work, and you have to love children and have lots of patience," she added. "But I'm teaching these kids something they can take with them forever. It's the main reason I do what I do."