By Tech. Sgt. John Orrell
National Guard Bureau
JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md., (10/06/10) -- The Air National Guard hopes to increase the number of Home Community Care program providers around the country, the service’s child and youth specialist said here recently.
The goal is to increase the number from 35 to 59, so Airmen will have access to free childcare during their monthly unit training assemblies.
“Air National Guardsmen in need of quality, affordable childcare during drill weekends can turn to (an) … approved provider and receive free childcare services for dependants age two weeks through 12 years old,” said Sandra Mason.
The HCC program, which started in 2004 with only five wings participating in the program, has a detailed approval process that providers must meet just to be considered.
“The first step is the wing deciding that they want this service to be available to its members,” Mason said. “The wing must complete a survey that demonstrates a need for childcare in their location.”
If the wing has enough interested members -- at least six children -- they move forward in the process.
“The wing point of contact, usually a services rep or … the Airman and Family Support office, applies for funding to pay the provider,” she said.
Once they are approved for funding, NGB goes through the child care local resource and referral office to help locate any providers with a 20-mile radius of the wing.
“The biggest challenge in locating qualified providers is ensuring they are fully licensed by the state, county and municipality for at least three months and that they do not contract with group homes or centers,” Mason said.
When the wing becomes interested in a provider, they inform them of their intent either through the wing’s point of contact or by NGB sending an informational packet, she said.
If the provider agrees to the stipulations of the HCC program, they then go through a rigorous application process, said Mason.
NGB or the wing point of contact performs a state license inspection, criminal background check and ensures that they take part in a U.S. Department of Agriculture feeding program.
“We also conduct a safety inspection of the home, both inside and out, and require them to have a fire extinguisher, an emergency escape plan, routine fire drills, emergency contact information for the children, shot records, CPR and first-aid certification … and a $300,000 liability insurance coverage,” Mason said.
Providers who are selected are also required to subscribe with the Childcare Educational Institute, which offers 120 childcare courses, to take two hours of classes a month and show proof of completion of 24 hours each calendar year they are contracted, she said.
“We have this system to protect our children,” Mason said. “We have to ensure that the people we pick to watch (our children) are the highest level and can be trusted whole-heartedly.”
ANG members are reminded that this is not a drop off system or an overnight babysitter. These contractors provide their services from 6 a.m., to 6 p.m., she said adding “just because this program is available doesn’t mean it should be abused.”
“For your child to take part in this program means you have a duel military family drilling at the same time, the military member is a single parent or they have a spouse that works during drill weekends,” she said.
The program is important to ANG members, Mason said adding that childcare is a readiness issue.
“They really appreciate the program … some members have actually considered separating from the ANG, because childcare is so expensive,” she said. “Their pay from weekend drills was going almost 100 percent to paying weekend childcare.”