Quality care for McChord kids: Program provides children nurturing, secure upbringing

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- Air Force spouse Tammy Acker wanted a job that combined two of her favorite activities, working with children and taking care of her own children. 

And she found exactly what she was looking for working as a licensed child care provider with the Family Child Care Program run by the 62nd Services Squadron 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 Child Care coordinator Sheila Hayes, 62nd Services Squadron. 

Family Child Care providers also get 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. 

To become providers, people must complete the required training offered by the 62nd SVS, obtain the required insurance coverage, have their houses pass inspections from several agencies and pass background checks before they can be a part of the program, Ms. Hayes said. 

The program currently has nine providers who care for 60 children, with each caring for no more than six children at a time, she said. 

Anyone who has access to McChord can send his or her child to a provider in the program. 

And 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, some even offer child care during swing shift hours and on the weekends for children of Reservists, she said. 

Mrs. Acker has been a provider for nearly two years and she said the comfort level between the parents and providers is one of the things that makes the program so successful. 

"The child care children are just like family to me," she said. 

In addition to all of the pro-viders being highly trained, another reason the program works well is because the providers are part of the base community and receive monthly check-ups, she said. 

"They work hard to stay on top of keeping their houses clean and keeping the correct developmentally appropriate equipment around," Ms. Hayes said. 

The support providers give each other also helps build strong bonds between the group, streng-thening the entire program, Mrs. Acker said.