By Brian Hill, Fort Leonard Wood Public Affairs Office
FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. (Oct. 12, 2023) — For parents seeking the right child care fit for their family and schedule — and on-post housing residents looking to earn an income and build a resume — the Army’s Family Child Care program offers many flexible options, said Ellie Johnson, Fort Leonard Wood’s FCC director.
Part of the Child and Youth Services child care system available on most Army garrisons, the FCC program is intended to provide vetted, quality home-based care in on-post family housing for children aged from four weeks to 12 years old, Johnson said.
“The benefits are it’s a very homey environment — it’s a smaller environment,” Johnson said. “Some children, especially if your child’s never been in child care — well, in a (child development center), you’ll have 20 children in that classroom, where an FCC provider is never going to have more than six.”
Johnson said FCC providers have other unique qualities that sometimes make them the preferred choice for families, including flexible hours — some offer part day, and some offer extended and overnight care — and the fees are also 15-percent less than CDCs and School Age Care.
“The extended care — that’s usually a big thing on a training post,” Johnson said. “If you’re needing after-hours or weekend care, they can still use the (CDCs) Monday through Friday, but maybe they need one Saturday a month or something. They can do that with FCC.”
For on-post residents, including spouses of service members and Department of Defense civilian employees, being an FCC provider has many perks, said Jennifer Chapman, Fort Leonard Wood’s Parent Outreach Services director — Chapman got her child care start as an FCC provider.
“The main benefit for me was being able to stay home with my children,” Chapman said. “So, I was able to care for my own children while I cared for other people’s children.”
Chapman said being an FCC provider is a good way to build a child care resume — the Army pays for the required training.
“I was a young military spouse, and I was able to start my business,” Chapman said. “I built my resume over the years running my business. All the mentorship I got through CYS helped, so that when I was ready to step out of the home and work in a center, I had all that knowledge; I had all my training completed. If that’s something you want to do, I went in as a lead (child and youth program assistant) and have worked my way up through CYS.”
Another benefit to becoming an FCC provider — especially for military spouses — is “it’s completely portable,” Chapman said.
“You can do it at any garrison,” she said. “Not only that, but you can get a bonus if you close your home at one installation and open it at another.”
The process of getting started is made easier, Chapman said, with the “community of FCC providers” here.
“You’re a contractor, a small business owner, and there are things you have to know about, like taxes, but Ellie helps with that,” Chapman said. “And if Ellie doesn’t know something, she knows someone here who does.”
Johnson said she hosts a monthly FCC parent advisory meeting the second Tuesday of each month in Bldg. 470, Room 1125, where parents and providers can share information and discuss upcoming events. Additionally, the FCC program includes a story time at the Bruce C. Clarke Library and Friday play groups that meet at different playgrounds on the installation.
Part of Johnson’s responsibilities include investigating what the Army calls unauthorized child care — an Army rule exists to ensure no unregulated child care takes place here on a consistent basis — and a common complaint she said she hears from would-be FCC providers is, “there’s so much you have to do to open.” However, she stressed the required background checks, training and certifications are all done to ensure quality care is being provided.
“It’s not as hard to get started as people think, and you have people helping you the whole way,” Johnson said.
Madison Bosanko has been an FCC provider for nine years, half of them here. She said the requirements to get started “really just gives you the knowledge to be able to do this.”
“It’s so that we’re able to adequately do our jobs and keep the kids safe,” she said, noting, “we’re more than just babysitters.”
“We have a curriculum we follow; we have menus we follow to be able to feed the kids a U.S.D.A.-credible meal,” Bosanko said. “When we do our curriculum, we have goals for each child as well.”
Like many FCC providers, Bosanko said she began her business to help provide an income for her family while also getting to stay home and raise her son. She continues as a provider, she said, because she enjoys working with children.
“I love being able to teach them things,” she said. “I love seeing that expression, or seeing that moment in their eyes, when something clicks for them, and they learn a new skill or an activity. And I love seeing the kids learn from the other kids as well.”
More information on FCC here is available here or by calling 573.596.0185.
About Fort Leonard Wood
Fort Leonard Wood is a thriving and prosperous installation that has evolved from a small basic training post more than 80 years ago to a premier Army Center of Excellence that trains nearly 80,000 military and civilians each year.
Fort Leonard Wood is home to the U.S Army Maneuver Support Center of Excellence and three U.S. Army schools: the U.S. Army Engineer School; U.S. Army Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear School; and the U.S. Army Military Police School. In addition to training engineer, CBRN and military police specialties for the Army, Fort Leonard Wood also provides gender-integrated in-processing and Basic Combat Training for new Soldiers.
Fort Leonard Wood also hosts and trains with the largest Marine Corps Detachment and Air Force Squadron on any Army installation as well as a large Navy construction detachment.
More information about Fort Leonard Wood is at: https://home.army.mil/wood/index.php/about/mission