By Lea Johnson
21st Space Wing Public Affairs staff writer
PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. — When Duane Cook, Family Child Care provider, was studying elementary education in college, he didn’t dream that one day he would be providing in-home child care.
“I didn’t even know that there was such a thing as FCC. I didn’t even know that people could watch kids in their homes,” Cook said.
Cook, a New York native, spent four years in the Marines after high school, where he met his wife who serves in the Navy. He’s been a stay-at-home dad, taking care of their three boys, ages 2, 8 and 10. “My role is to make sure that all the boys’ needs are met,” Cook said.
Peterson AFB typically has about a dozen in-home child care providers, each able to watch up to six children at a time. Care providers essentially run their own business, said Dorothy Choate, 21st Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Services flight chief. They are able to choose what ages they are most comfortable caring for, but are only allowed a maximum of two under the age of 18 months.
“I’ve got a lot of competent creative peers around me, and it’s a good environment,” Cook said. “When we mingle and when we get together, we can support each other and encourage each other.”
The FCC holds a three-day class for those interested in becoming a care provider. Kelley Wanderscheid, FCC coordinator, said the training covers regulations, Department of Agriculture requirements and information on how to prepare the home.
“When you look at the whole thing and you’re not inside the loop, it’s a lot, but (Wanderscheid’s) on the inside so she knows what the process is. She’s like a conductor,” Cook said.
After the training, the health and safety inspections, and background check, the FCC panel recommends a provider to the 21st Mission Support Group commander for licensure, Choate said.
The process time varies, depending how anxious a person is to get started.
The FCC has a lending library to help equip providers with all of the mats, furniture, toys and equipment they need. “If it was up to me or any other provider, (we’d) be hard-pressed to try to get all that furniture and all the proper mats and this and that,” Cook said.
Having a background in education has helped Cook. “The environment is one that encourages creativity. You’ve got that liberty as a work environment to be crazy and silly and fun,” he said.
Parents who are looking for child care can get a list of openings from their command. When a parent calls Cook, he takes the child for a two-week trial period. “If he’s not a good fit then I’ll be honest and say it’s not a good fit, and vice versa. If you don’t feel I’m a good fit for the child, then just speak frankly that way we don’t have problems down the road,” Cook said.
Every child care provider has a different philosophy and a different way of running things, Choate said, but they are all professionals.
“When I roll out of bed every morning, it matters,” Cook said. “I try to wow them with everything I can so they’re excited and their curiosity is encouraged.”
The next class on how to become an in-home FCC provider is Dec. 7 to 9. For information, call Wanderscheid at 556-4322.