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20th FSS offers additional family care options

A child plays with a magnifying glass during an activity at a Family Child Care at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 12, 2018.

A child plays with a magnifying glass during an activity at a Family Child Care at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 12, 2018. Children in FCC programs receive the same educational and nutritional benefits as they would in the 20th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center along with the advantages of smaller classroom sizes. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)

Talia Sustaita, Family Child Care (FCC) Program provider, sings songs with her children at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 12, 2018.

Talia Sustaita, Family Child Care (FCC) Program provider, sings songs with her children at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 12, 2018. The FCC programs offer alternative daycare options for military parents who may work unusual shifts, long hours or when the 20th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center is at maximum capacity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)

A child places a plastic bug inside a toy frog’s mouth during an activity at his Family Child Care (FCC) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 12, 2018.

A child places a plastic bug inside a toy frog’s mouth during an activity at his Family Child Care (FCC) at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., April 12, 2018. Children at FCC programs participate in engaging educational activities which challenge them to develop social and practical skills while learning about the world around them. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- Child care can be a tough decision. It can be even tougher when child care intersects with duty. Many service members have unorthodox work schedules, juggling exercises, deployments and temporary duty locations with the needs of their family. For some, even a typical day can prove mission requirements to be unpredictable.

The 20th Force Support Squadron Family Child Care programs offer in-home daycare for children two weeks to 12 years of age, tailorable toward varied family schedules and individual needs.

Fran Knox, 20th FSS FCC coordinator, said the programs act as a supplement to the Child Development Center, allowing families on the CDC wait list to receive child care, and providing an alternative route for those families who prefer their children in a smaller environment or work odd shifts.

The programs include Extended Duty Care, intended for service members whose work hours exceed their normal child care facility hours, and 24/7 Child Care, designed for parents who have swing or mid-shifts or work holidays and weekends, in addition to many other care plans adapted to specific situations military families may face.

“I think of it as my way of giving back to the military,” said Talia Sustaita, FCC provider. “Being gone, that’s our Airmen and Soldiers’ way of giving back. This is my way — to watch their kids when they’re TDY and they don’t have a family care plan or anybody else to help them out.”

Air Force FCC providers must undergo a background investigation as well as orientation and annual trainings, unannounced home visits on at least a monthly basis, and annual first aid and infant/child CPR certifications.

While in an FCC program, enrolled children receive the same social, practical and academic education as those at the main 20th FSS CDC.

One varying factor between FCC and the CDC is class sizes.

“We have seen a difference where some children have transitioned from the CDC into a smaller environment, with the consent of the parents,” said Knox. “It was just something that was best for the child and you can see a big difference with the one-on-one interaction with the child.”

The providers also follow the same nutritional guidelines as the CDC and are required to submit a meal plan to a base dietitian and the United States Department of Agriculture for approval.

Knox encourages interested parents to interview several providers to find who their personalities and schedules mesh with before they make their decision. She also said peace of mind is very important and that her providers want to ensure parents feel confident leaving their children with them.

“They need to be focused on their job because it’s so demanding,” said Sustaita. “They need to be comfortable and their mindset needs to be relaxed. … It can affect them and the people around them if they’re worried about, ‘Is my child okay?’”

Knowing their family is taken care of is crucial for service members to focus on the mission. For more information about the programs or to register, contact Knox at 803-895-2247.