Quality, affordable childcare is hard to come by these days, especially in the military community. Short-staffed daycare centers scramble to find people to cover shifts, all the while, waitlists for needed care lengthen with each passing day. Families who are dual military take priority, so their children get placed in a childcare center before anyone else’s. If a service member’s spouse works outside of the home, they are typically stuck on a waitlist until a spot becomes available. In the meantime they get placed in a Family Child Care (FCC) home or they have the option to find civilian child care off-post, which is usually more expensive.
Common Misconceptions of FCC
On many Army installations, FCC homes are getting a bad reputation and seen as not providing quality care, which brings us to the first misconception. Quality care is largely based on opinion. A provider might be great and super helpful for one family, but not the next family. There is not a one size fits all with child care, especially when we consider that the individual needs for each child differs. In FCC it is a one man show, there are no aids to rotate and there is not a shift change so organization, patience and structure on the providers part is very important.
Another common misconception about FCC is that the providers have to run their business a certain way. There are rules and regulations that providers must follow to stay open such as you must be certified through Child and Youth Services if you are caring for a child or children for more than 10 hours per week. However, FCC providers are also considered independent contractors so they choose how to run their business. A key fact to remember is that even though a provider’s home is a daycare, it is also their home so expect visitors to be in and out. The courtesy of informing parents of a visitor is up to the discretion of the provider, it is not required. Keep that in mind when choosing a FCC home.
How can you ensure the FCC home is a good fit for you and your child?
It is always a good idea to make sure a proper interview between the person needing care and the provider takes place before a formal contract for care is signed. In this interview you should:
- Clarify the definition of quality care in your terms and the FCC provider’s terms. It is imperative that this is understood between the family and provider.
- Establish the expectations on both sides and ask plenty of questions. Ask questions directly related to the type of care you expect. One question could be about whether or not the provider keeps a daily log of meals, daily activities, diaper changes, nap time routines, ect. As an FCC provider myself, I love for parents to be involved. I love for them to ask questions about their child’s day and for them to help navigate troublesome behavior. It literally takes a village to raise a child, and everyone in the village needs to be on the same page. I often get uncomfortable when parents refuse to talk about their child’s behavior or developmental delays, the reason is because early intervention is always best.
- Always tour the home and ask about any pets or brothers and sisters.
- If your child has special needs or sensory sensitivities, ask the provider if they take care of those needs specifically and accommodate, not every provider will do this.
Not every child and provider are a good fit either, for that reason, the FCC program has a two week trial period within the contract, in case a provider determines they cannot effectively serve a family.
What is required of FCC Providers?
FCC providers are required to pass a background check, along with everyone in the home over the age of 12. In addition, FCC providers must complete a first aid and CPR course for children and infants. We are also required to keep up with virtual trainings, plan menus and have them approved by a nutritionist or director of the program, random monthly, quarterly, and annual inspections for fire and safety. The home of the FCC provider becomes a daycare center during operating hours, so safety measures must be taken with electrical outlets, stairs, cabinets, and stoves. Weekly menus should be posted on the parent board in the entry way, fire exits should be posted, and discipline guidelines should also be posted for parents to see. For children under the age of 18 months, documentation is required to be kept on feedings, diaper changes and nap times and then reported to parents at the end of each day.
What to do if I am unhappy with the care of an FCC Provider?
Quality childcare should be accessible to everyone, including military families. Parents, you are your child’s biggest advocate. If you are unhappy or feel your child is not safe in an FCC providers home, reach out to the director of the program and explain your concerns. Keep reaching out if you do not get a response. A last resort option could be to make an ICE (Interactive Customer Evaluation) comment that would go through the garrison and if a reply is requested then they have to do something. Every installation has a website where ICE comments can be submitted. Make sure to first contact the director and/or the CYS coordinator about a complaint before resorting to ICE. Of course if there is abuse or neglect suspected in the home then it should be reported directly to the Military Police. The only other option for families overseas would be to use a babysitter or nanny outside of the FCC program. Unfortunately there are not a ton of options for families when stationed abroad.
The FCC program can be a blessing for many families struggling to find affordable care. It is my goal, as a provider, to support military families through the challenges of military life and childcare options is definitely one of them. However, there are many misconceptions about FCC providers. Be sure to have some serious family discussions about whether or not to enroll your child in the FCC program. If FCC is the best choice for your family, then it is important to follow steps to ensure you choose a provider that can meet your expectations as much as possible. Keep lines of communication with your provider open, stay involved, and ask questions. A provider may not realize they are doing something that has you concerned, so reach out and let them know. In addition, remember to follow the appropriate channels when reporting a complaint and if necessary, use the ICE system.
© Strength 4 Spouses LLC, 2022.
Brandy Lane has been a military spouse for 9 years. She is a mom of 4 and currently an
FCC provider. Her passion is to advocate for families within FCC that are raising children with special needs. She supports them and helps them gain access to services regarding speech, occupational therapy and other developmental therapies. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in Special Education and hopes to continue to grow her knowledge so that she can serve military families effectively.