Family Child Care caters to military families

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Michelle Vickers
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
One of the most important decisions a parent can make is who they entrust to care for their children. Many parents explore multiple options, weighing the pros and cons of each, before arriving at their decision. While there are day care centers on and off base, they may not always match the unique needs of each military family. This is where the Family Child Care program can fit the bill.

FCC is an alternative child care source available to service members or Department of Defense civilians, which provides care for children in a small family environment in the provider's home.

"I always like to refer to it as a home away from home," said Stephanie Corkren, FCC's U.S. Department of Agriculture food program monitor and former FCC provider.

Similar to the programs at the CDC, children may participate in art projects, outdoor play, dress-up, sports or musical activities among other things. Some providers additionally take their children on field trips to sites like the zoo.

"Our providers are able to do field trips with the children where the other centers they cannot," said Carol Carter, Family Child Care coordinator. "That's an extra incentive. The children work on those things all week so it's an on-going learning process."

Compared to conventional day care centers, children may interact with multiple age groups instead of being separated by age. FCC homes are limited to having small ratios with six children under the age of eight including no more than two children under the age of two.

"Some children need, and parents want a small, home environment for their children," said Carter.

"Each child within a FCC home needs different [types of] attention at different times," said Latanga Cunningham, Hurlburt's FCC Provider of the Year. "Some children need nurturing, holding, hugs, encouragement, kisses to assure them that they are loved and can build trust with the provider."

Just like the CDC, meals and snacks are served in accordance with the USDA standards on a four week menu cycle in FCC homes to ensure children receive nutritious meals with servings that are appropriate for their age.

"The children love it because it's like being at home with their parents," Corkren said. "They're getting the same type of meals."

This alternative care option has the advantage that providers are able to be flexible in their hours of operation, FCC providers can also provide part-time or hourly care. While the CDC does not have hours that accommodate service members who work swing or midnight shifts, some FCC providers do offer child care for those times.

"The majority of our providers work on what their families need," Carter said.

"If a parent is called into work on the weekend, night or early morning beyond their scheduled work shift, we are just a phone call away," Cunningham said.

With guidance from the pediatric clinic FCC providers are able to accommodate children with a variety of special needs. If necessary, the pediatric clinic will advise providers if they need to have a lower child to provider ratio than the standard. Care providers are also able to adjust activities or menus based upon the needs of the children.

"If you have a child that comes in with a special need like a food allergy they're able to accommodate that child and they'll change their menu," Corkren said.

The locations of the providers also offer a greater number of options, with FCC homes located not only in base housing, but also in Mary Esther, Fort Walton Beach and Navarre. The varied locations assist families who live further out from base to have closer day care choices. In particular, dual military couples where one spouse may be stationed at another nearby installation can find FCC programs more convenient than base day care.

Another advantage of the FCC programs is the relationship formed between the family and the provider, with only one care provider parents can develop closer interactions. During deployments having a single care provider, along with the home setting, can provide some feeling of consistency for children.

"Sometimes for families I think it is an advantage for them, some of our single moms, because they become that extended family that they don't have here," Carter said.
Some providers keep space availability to participate in special day care programs. The programs include FCC for volunteers, Returning Home Care, Extended Duty Care and FCC for PCS.

Returning Home Care provides 16 hours of free child care per child in a FCC home for service members who have recently returned from a deployment. This gives service members a chance to reconnect with their spouses or just take a break to transition back into their daily routines. FCC for PCS allows families 20 hours of free child care through FCC within 60 days of departing a base and 60 days after arriving on station to handle the hiccups of moving. The Airman and Family Readiness Center facilitates free FCC day care for volunteers who are serving in programs that benefit the Air Force community. Extended Duty Care is for service members or DOD civilian members who are working extra hours, on the weekend, or in support of an exercise.

"We had an exercise a year ago in January, we did over 1,000 hours of (child) care, and that was the off hours," Carter said.

Family Child Care providers are required to be military spouses or spouses of retired service members. The program enables providers to earn an income while also staying at home and taking care of their own children. This saves providers from potential day care costs that they would incur if they were working outside the home.

"Some advantages I have are ... having a home business, being there for parents and families when they need me, treating children and families like they are my own family, and just providing child care because this is what I love to do," Cunningham said.

The process to becoming a FCC provider involves undergoing background checks through several base agencies, obtaining a physical and receiving an array of extensive training. Training includes CPR, first aid and food handler's certification, business practices and child development among other topics. After becoming licensed, providers continue their training each month by completing the same modules that staff in the CDCs and youth programs are required to master. For military spouses all of this child care training can also be useful in finding future employment after they leave Hurlburt Field.

"When the spouses PCS we're actually sending some of those highly skilled people onto new bases," Carter said.

There is always a need for those who are interested in becoming FCC providers, especially those who can provide infant care, extended hours and those who live in Navarre, Carter said. She said even with the new CDC opening, the need is always going to be there.

For more information about using Family Child Care or becoming a provider call 884-4300 or visit