Family Child Care homes an alternative to larger facilities

Ewa Yartey, a Family Child Care provider, gives Erica Franko a gentle peck on the nose during an Aug. 15 play session at her residence in Fort Lee's Harrison Village. Yartey looks after six kids and sees her work as rewarding and of great value to the military community.

FORT LEE, Va. – Staff Sgt. Raul Matute likes it when his Family Child Care provider sends pictures of his 3-year-old during the course of the day.

The Quartermaster School instructor cited that personal touch and more as the reason he continues to pass on the invitation to enroll his son in the Child Development Center at Fort Lee.

“I think I’m still on the CDC waitlist, but right now, there are no plans to place him there,” said the Romeo Company, 262nd Quartermaster Battalion Soldier, noting he is satisfied with his provider and care environment.

An FCC home is a child care option in which service is dispensed at a residence on or outside the installation by a certified provider. The homes offers fulltime and hourly care, undergo safety and other inspections similar to the CDCs, and are operated under Army regulations. Furthermore, rates run on average 15 percent less than their military-approved counterparts. 

Despite the resounding endorsement of Matute and others, who also appreciate the flexibility of in-home care, the FCC program as a whole is often overlooked by families seeking alternatives to conventional care, said LaTanya Wagstaff, the person who oversees the activity here.

“There are so many options,” she said. “We offer extended hours (before 6 a.m. and after 6 p.m.), customizable development plans, smaller ratios, and oftentimes an environment where children learn to interact with kids of different age groups.”

Other benefits come to mind as well, said Wagstaff.

“It’s basically a home away from home,” she said. “The smaller settings and flexible hours may be more appropriate for you and your child.  Also, the ability to establish a more in-depth relationship with the provider is what make FCC homes stand out.”

Matute agrees. He said his provider allows phone calls and texts, keeps him aware of activities planned in advance and gives him regular updates about his son’s socialization and development.

“She’s great,” he said, referring to Ewa Yartey, who cares for six children in her home. “I have nothing but high remarks for her. She’s very attentive, and my son really likes her. When I drop him off, he runs right to her and gives her a hug every time.”

There are three FCC homes here and three more pending approval. Wagstaff said the providers are technically independent contractors who enjoy benefits to which counterparts do not have access. They include free training and equipment (such as toys and appropriate furniture), food and pay subsidies, and certification.

FCC providers also have the opportunity to earn a $1,900 Child Development Associate credential free of charge, Wagstaff said.

An FCC home is a unique opportunity for spouses to attain skills and run a business, all while supporting the military community, she added.

“They can become professional providers,” Wagstaff pointed out. “They are taught to write lesson plans, appropriately organize daily activities and prepare for inspections. So, if they ever leave the Army, they will have the knowledge, skills and abilities to open up their own facilities.”

Spouses and other family members interested in becoming family child care providers are required to undergo background checks and fulfill a number of other eligibility criteria. For more information about the program, call 804-765-3852.