FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Before parents drop their children off at someone's home for child care on post, they need to make sure the providers are certified by Fort Rucker's Family Child Care program.

A number of unauthorized providers are operating on Fort Rucker, endangering those they care for and risking serious personal liability issues, according to Vender Tabb, FCC director.

"Online babysitter sites show more than 30 non-certified providers are operating here. These people may not realize they are in violation of Army regulations and putting their Soldiers' career in potential jeopardy," Tabb said.

"FCC-certified providers meet the highest standards and are well-trained in nutrition, CPR and other aspects related to quality child care," she said. "We have developed a comprehensive program that allows anyone interested in becoming an FCC provider to start a certified child care business with no out-of-pocket expense."

This is an issue that has garrison command's attention, as well.

"April is Child Abuse Prevention Month, and so it is fitting that we raise awareness about authorized and unauthorized child care on our installation," said Justin Mitchell, Fort Rucker deputy garrison commander.

"As a former domestic abuse investigator, I am all too familiar with the signs of abuse and so are our certified FCC providers. They are trained to recognize the signs of abuse of those in their care and are familiar with proper reporting procedures," he said.

Mitchell said he is concerned about the number of non-compliant caregivers operating on the installation, and he "strongly suggests these folks find out how to become certified by visiting the FCC office to receive the free guidance and education required to open an authorized child care facility in their homes."

Becoming a certified FCC provider requires an investment of time, but offers potentially huge returns on that investment, according to Tabb.

"We not only provide training equivalent to a two-year certification program, at no charge, but the FCC program also subsidizes meals and our lending locker is stocked with everything a person needs to start a quality in-home child care business," she said.

"From kid-sized furniture and toys to books and visual materials, we can help those operating outside Army regulation guidelines and start them on the road to benefitting from the various services we offer," she said.

"For instance, the FCC staff can arrange for a substitute when providers need time off to de-stress, have an appointment or need to visit the gym," Tabb said. "We don't want our FCC providers to experience the anxiety or burn-out often associated with in-home child care."

FCC providers take stress off parents, too.

"My schedule is unpredictable, and the flexibility FCC homes offer takes the pressure off," said CW2 Jaira Sanchez, who started using the FCC program in July 2009 when her 3-year-old daughter, Alena, was a baby.

"When I have had to attend out-of-town medical appointments or pick up Family members at the airport, my FCC provider has been available to take care of Alena, early morning or late night," said Sanchez, who is the 164th Theater Airfield Operations Group human resources technician at Cairns Army Airfield. "If there is an unscheduled event, there is a smooth transition from regular hours to extended hours without the need to pick up and drop off.

"Knowing that my provider has had professional training and is certified by post officials gives me the peace of mind I need while I'm at work or on the road, and relieves me of the worry and stress about the quality of care my child is getting," she said.

As the program director, Tabb sees the opportunity for win-win situations for all concerned.

"Fort Rucker needs more certified FCC providers, and those who are now operating unauthorized child care services out of their homes are in a perfect position to meet that need here," she said. "While there are rules that must be followed, those rules are in place to ensure that our FCC homes are safe and secure for the little ones entrusted to the providers' care. I encourage anyone interested in operating regulation compliant and profitable in-home child care to call me at 255-3446 to set up a time to go over the program specifics."