ELLSWORTH AIR FORCE BASE, S.D. --
Finding childcare can be anxiety inducing, but when the provider is certified, highly-trained and continuously monitored to ensure standards are met, it can put a parent’s mind at ease.
Family Child Care homes and the McRaven Child Development Center are two childcare options presented to service members at Ellsworth Air Force Base. They not only provide military families with base-affiliated, certified childcare services, but can also open-up employment opportunities for those looking to become licensed childcare providers.
McRaven Child Development Center
Working at the CDC as a caregiver is a different experience ¬from working at a civilian day care due to aspects of the job application process, training requirements and the educational resources available.
The base CDC is accredited with the National Association for the Education of Young Children, an organization that works with childcare centers to aid with the development of children. NAEYC provides each with access to continuous quality-improvement resources, training, technical assistance and other helpful resources.
“There are only five [NAEYC accredited childcare centers] in South Dakota,” stated Susan Ratkovsky, the CDC director, adding that all Air Force CDCs are required to accomplish the accreditation. “State childcare facilities may work in a different way, but we don’t just follow regular regulations. We also have to follow Air Force Instruction 34-144: [Child and Youth Programs], which means we are held to a higher standard.”
Those who apply to work at an Air Force CDC must also be 18 years or older, able to read and write in English, able to lift at least 40 lbs., complete a physical and have up-to-date immunizations. Additionally, an intensive criminal background check must be run on each applicant.
The application process to work at the CDC can take a while, but there are ways to speed it up and make it easier for potential employees and the CDC staff, Ratkovsky added. One way an applicant can help streamline the process is by having their immunization records and medical paperwork in-line and ready to submit. Immunizations are required because it helps prevent the spreading of disease among young children, whose immune systems are not as developed as a grown adult.
“This is a great place to work and we have a lot of fun on the job,” said Tina Parks, the 28th Force Support Squadron CDC operations manager. “You need to have patience, of course – it takes a while to get hired because of the prerequisite background checks and interviews that need to take place before you get the job. There is a lot of training to be done, and it also depends on if applicants have all of the necessary information.”
Family Child Care homes
Another option for parents or individuals who would like to run a base-affiliated childcare program from their home is an FCC.
FCC homes are an alternative to the CDC on Ellsworth AFB that provide a comfortable home-setting with versatile hours. The licensed FCC homes on base and affiliated FCC homes off base have childcare providers that are held to the same high standards as those who work at the base CDC. Each participating home is run by a certified provider and is supported by an FCC office, which provides training and supervision.
“I think FCCs are a great alternative, especially because we have oversight,” said Angela Winchester, the 28th FSS child services flight chief. We’re in that home at least once a month to make sure these places are safe and up-to-date on sanitation requirements.”
Winchester further clarified that the monthly inspection her team does of all local FCC homes comes after the Ellsworth AFB fire department, ground safety and employees from her flight conduct their initial inspections.
Potential FCC daycare owners have to meet specific criteria. These rules are set by the state and AFI 34-144. Accreditation and prerequisite training are required to become an FCC provider and a criminal history check is needed.
“To become an FCC provider, the individual has to be 18 years of age or older, has to be able to read, write and speak [in] English, and has to have access to base housing,” Winchester explained. “Off-base military dependents have to be certified through the state and affiliated with the base.”
To become licensed, applicants must go through a tier one background check, which can take up to 90 days. They are also required to go through initial child abuse prevention and reporting training, and must accomplish this annually thereafter. Additionally, they must also get certified in pediatric first aid, and food preparation and sanitation.
“One of the biggest perks is that training is done on base through us for free,” Winchester said. “If [FCC homes] were not affiliated with the base, they would have to pay for that training.”
For those looking for more information on the two programs, staff members at the McRaven CDC are available to answer questions. They can be reached at (605) 385-2488. Parents can also visit http://militarychildcare.cnic.navy.mil/ to learn more about the childcare options available to them in the local area.