There are two types of child care military families come to know – one is provided by the agency found on most military bases known as the Child Development Center or CDC. These offer full-day, part-day, and drop-in care for military families with children aged six weeks to five years old, and operate on schedules that vary from base to base.
CDC facilities and programs are certified by the Department of Defense and accredited by a national accrediting body. But CDC facilities aren’t the only option offered; another program is called FCC or Family Child Care.
Family Child Care
FCC is a program that offers care for children up to 12 years old in private homes on or off-base (depending on circumstances) in government-owned or government-leased housing.
Family child care providers must be certified professionals. FCC homes are certified and must meet requirements and providers may also seek accreditation from the National Association of Child Care.
FCC homes offer care on a more flexible schedule than traditional day care or even some CDC facilities. 24/7 care and extended care may be offered depending on demand, mission requirements, and other variables. Each FCC home is limited to the number of children that can be in that home at any one time:
- No more than six children under age eight
- No more than three children when all children are under age two
How To Become A Family Child Care Provider
In general, those living in government quarters on base are allowed to provide a small amount of child care in their homes without certification. But those offering more than 10 hours per week on a regular basis must be certified or risk losing their base housing privileges.
Being certified as an FCC provider means working with the local branch of Child and Youth Services or its equivalent on post. You will be required to become certified, get inspected, and operate as a legitimate business on base. The steps to becoming an FCC provider include:
- Be at least 18 years old
- Complete an FCC Application and submit to the local FCC office
- Attend 38 hours of training in First Aid, CPR, and child abuse prevention
- Completion of a local background check
- Have inspections conducted by local Fire, Safety and Preventive Medicine Offices
Filling Out The Application
When filling out the FCC Application (DA Form 5219) you should be prepared to answer both practical questions (are you willing to work with mildly sick children, offer extended care hours, etc.) and also personal ones (specifically about legal issues, violation of the law, etc.)
It is a very good idea to decide in advance what your care provider hours will be as the application will ask you to list potential days and times you will offer child care in your home. You should also decide in advance how many children total you wish to care for and what age ranges. Those ranges are generally:
- Under 2 years old
- 2-6 years old
- 6-12 years old
You will be asked to name all members of your household, any pets, and give any information about relevant training or experience that may help as in Family Child Care Provider.
You will also need to provide information about any current home business operated from the quarters where applicable, and you’ll need to provide names, contact information, and addresses for at least three references.
The form is only the start of your screening process. A personal interview is required that must include all members of the household. You will, as mentioned above, be subject to a background investigation that also includes the military spouse, children, and any other resident of the home 12 years or older.
When this process is complete, the applicant may open for business with “provisional certification.”
Age and Training Requirements
All caregivers are required to be 18 or older and have either a high school diploma or equivalent. Once provisional certification is achieved, there is an 18-month on-the-job training period that allows the certification process to continue at month 12.
The care providers in training must complete training modules and complete the entire run of the program in order to be officially certified. This process is considered a coaching experience, so don’t expect to be left alone to read pamphlets and watch videos without personal interaction with your trainer.
The Background Check
The initial background check is a detail that is a bit daunting for newcomers to the FCC program–it can take up to six months to compete. But once the initial check is done, that investigation can travel with the provider from base to base–there is no need to go through the entire six-month process every time.
At each new base, the original background check is updated, not completed from scratch. This will be a much faster process in typical cases once the first one is accomplished.
Getting Started As An FCC Provider
When approved to begin providing care as a provisionally certified FCC home, you’ll get a special sticker–an official FCC “house and rainbow” sticker that indicates the home is inspected and approved to provide FCC services. That is an important indicator to your potential clients that your home is approved.
Depending on the base and other variables, you may find that your early days as an FCC provider are supplemented by the FCC program providing some initial basic safety supplies and other provisions. This help is meant to reduce out-of-pocket startup expenses.
Once an FCC home is up and running, it is subject to regular inspections, so there is accountability for safety, health, and wellness of those under the care of an individual FCC home.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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