The Army Family is made up of individuals with many different roles, missions and needs. Soldiers, Family Members, Department of Army Civilians and Department of Defense contractors each play a vital part in ensuring the overall readiness of the force.
To be able to focus on their job, parents need to know that their children receive excellent care in a setting that meets their child’s educational needs and accommodates their schedule – one that may include shift work, 24-hour duty, or even long-term care.
The majority of children enrolled in Fort Drum’s Child and Youth Services day care programs attend one of the installation’s child development centers. These centers provide care in a school-like setting from 5:45 a.m. to 5:45 p.m. Monday through Friday.
While this type of care may work for the majority of Fort Drum Families, others require a different type of support. This is where the Family Child Care program comes in, said Karin Sikirica, Child and Youth Services director.
“Family Child Care is a lesser-known option, but it is a very integral part of Child and Youth Services,” she said. “This alternative to our child development centers is absolutely necessary to supporting readiness.”
The Family Child Care program provides in-home care for children ages 4 weeks to 12 years and includes options for full day, hourly, before and after school, special needs, emergency and long-term care. Family Members working as independent contractors provide care in their own housing units on the installation.
FCC providers have the option to complete additional training and obtain certification to provide extended care, said Christine Barton, CYS Family Child Care director.
“They provide for our Soldiers who need 24-hour care,” Barton said. “If (Soldiers) have to go to the field, deploy, or need to go into work early or stay late to meet the mission, these providers work with the Families to provide that care outside of their regular child care hours.”
In addition to offering a more flexible schedule, FCC homes also provide a smaller setting that may better serve the needs of some children. The family-like setting allows students to learn from real-life experiences, and it allows Families with more than one child the opportunity to keep their children in the same home.
What many community members do not realize, Sikirica said, is that FCC providers receive the same training and support as CYS-based staff members, and they are required to follow the same rules and regulations.
“Our FCC providers are educated and trained professionals,” she said. “They work in a different setting, but they have the same training requirements as staff members in our centers, and they are dedicated to ensuring that children in their care are getting quality educational opportunities that help them develop age-appropriate skills and learning concepts.”
FCC homes are furnished with the same activity centers as child care facilities, including play, arts and reading areas. Caregivers also have access to a lending closet with toys, books and learning materials geared toward children of all different developmental levels.
Rates for parents are 15 percent lower in FCC homes than those of child development centers, with the Army subsidizing the difference for the providers.
Sikirica said that CYS is always looking for dedicated individuals who wish to become FCC providers.
“There are so many resources available to help individuals who want to provide care to obtain their license and certification,” she said. “It is a really fulfilling career, and one that benefits everyone in our community.”
Sikirica emphasized that Army regulations prohibit individuals living on post from providing more than 10 hours of child care per week, unless they are FCC providers. She encourages people who wish to care for children beyond the allowable limit to use the resources provided on Fort Drum and become a licensed caregiver.
The first step toward becoming an FCC provider is to contact the Family Child Care office at (315) 772-2250, Barton said. Interested individuals will set up an appointment to discuss requirements and complete basic paperwork. Next, the individual will be fingerprinted, and the applicant and all Family Members age 12 and older will undergo background checks.
Once cleared, potential providers must complete a two-week orientation and training cycle that encompasses the same training required for staff members at Fort Drum’s CYS facilities. In addition to this standard training, FCC providers receive education on USDA nutrition guidelines and requirements, as they are responsible for preparing meals for those in their care.
The provider’s home must then be inspected by post officials to ensure it meets health and safety requirements and inspected annually to maintain accreditation.
While obtaining a license to offer Family Child Care is an involved process, Sikirica said that it is one that is absolutely necessary to ensuring the safety and well-being of the children.
“Our primary concern will always be the safety and health of our children,” she said. “Our FCC providers are an asset to our community, and we are here to work with them to make sure that they have all the tools and resources they need to provide the best care possible for our children.”
Parents can find information regarding child care programs worldwide and search for and request care by visiting the website www.militarychildcare.com