In-home childcare offers parents safe, fun option

Catalina Noguez plays with 8-month-old Sophia Fisher in the living room of
her home Oct. 15. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

Catalina Noguez plays with 8-month-old Sophia Fisher in the living room of her home Oct. 15. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

From right, Iris Noguez, Adrian Rodriguez and Mauricio Noguez have fun on playground equipment at a McChord park while Catalina Noguez swings the younger children. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

From right, Iris Noguez, Adrian Rodriguez and Mauricio Noguez have fun on playground equipment at a McChord park while Catalina Noguez swings the younger children. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

Chase Brooks, age 2, waits patiently while Mrs. Noguez prepares his lunch plate. Following strict FCC program guidelines, Mrs. Noguez provides a well-balanced, homemade meal of teriyaki chicken, rice, fruit and milk for lunch. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

Chase Brooks, age 2, waits patiently while Mrs. Noguez prepares his lunch plate. Following strict FCC program guidelines, Mrs. Noguez provides a well-balanced, homemade meal of teriyaki chicken, rice, fruit and milk for lunch. (U.S. Air Force photo/Abner Guzman)

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- McChord Air Force spouse Catalina Noguez had no problem trading in her days as an architect and dealing with permits and plans for the role of a licensed childcare provider.

"I decided to take a break from my career," Mrs. Noguez said. "I love kids and I was always babysitting for other people, so I thought why not get paid for it?"

The mother of two found exactly what she was looking for working out of her home as a licensed child care provider with the family child care program run by the 62nd Force Support Squadron, which also manages the Child Development Center here.

The program offers military spouses and retirees who live on or off base the chance to run an independently owned and operated business providing care for children, said acting family childcare coordinator Shelia Hayes, 62nd FSS.

Family childcare providers have access to the program's free lending library where they can check out everything from toys and playpens to first aid kits, Ms. Hayes said.

Providers must complete the required training offered by the 62nd FSS, obtain the required insurance coverage, have their house pass inspections from several agencies and clear a background check before they can be a part of the program, Ms. Hayes said.

The program currently has 12 providers who care for 120 children, with each responsible for no more than six children at a time, she said.

"The program has more of an at-home feel ... we get to bond more with the kids," said Mrs. Noguez, who watches six children each day.

All Defense Department ID-card holding families can send their children to a provider in the program.

Capt. Jennifer Goetz's three-year-old son, Dominic, has been going to the family childcare program for nearly two years.

"It's structured better for his personality," said Captain Goetz, a member of the 62nd Mission Support Group. "He's not really a go-with-the-group type kid. With FCC he gets the individual attention and is around other kids at the same time."

The FCC provider also allows Dominic a bit more flexible schedule during the day when it comes to activities and more chances for small field trips, Captain Goetz said.

"The providers I've had have been outstanding," she added.

Since almost half of the current providers participate in a subsidy program, parents pay the same rates that they would at the Child Development Center, Ms. Hayes said.

Because the providers are familiar with the military lifestyle, many offer childcare during swing shift hours and on the weekends for the children, as well as evening hours and during extended duty hours associated with exercises.

Another reason why the program works well is the highly-trained providers are part of the base community.

They also undergo an evaluation once a month to ensure their skills are current.

"They work hard keeping their homes clean, safe and ensure the correct developmentally appropriate equipment is there," Ms. Hayes said.