Once a month, Coast Guard All Hands will feature “Dear Coast Guard Family,” a column for Coast Guard families by Coast Guard spouse Rachel Conley. Rachel is married to her high school sweetheart, Chief Warrant Officer James Conley, and is the mother of three children. Rachel passionately serves as a Coast Guard Ombudsman and advocate of Coast Guard families. She is the recipient of numerous awards, including the United States Coast Guard Ombudsman of the Year Award.
Written by Rachel Conley
April is designated as the Month of the Military Child to recognize the sacrifices, the resilience, and the challenges that our incredible military children overcome. Coast Guard children have felt the sting of a hard good-bye, they have transferred to different and far-off places – learning to “bloom where they are planted” in new schools and communities, and they have experienced the joy and anticipation of a long-awaited reunion.
As their parents serve the nation, the Family Child Care (FCC) Program is available to serve Coast Guard connected children in highly beneficial ways. And, not only does this program offer safe and dependable child care for Coast Guard members, it also provides thriving business opportunities for Coast Guard spouses.
Through the Family Child Care Program, Coast Guard spouses residing in Coast Guard owned housing can become certified to provide in-home child care. Maura Redy, a Coast Guard Child Development Services Specialist (CDSS), shares that Family Child Care Homes offer unique qualities, making them the preferred child care choice for many Coast Guard families and an excellent business opportunity for eligible Coast Guard spouses. Family Child Care Homes are an alternative to center-based care, providing a comfortable, family-like setting and activities based on real life experiences in the home and neighborhood. “The flexibility the FCC program and it’s providers offer is an asset in meeting the diverse work hours and lifestyle of today’s Coast Guard families,” said Redy.
Natalie Donohue has been an FCC provider for a little over a year and wishes that she had known about the program sooner. Donohue wanted the ability to remain a stay-at-home mom, while also earning income for her family. When she learned about the Family Child Care program through a Facebook posting, she felt that it offered the perfect solution. “I have absolutely loved it,” she passionately exclaims. While starting up a child care business may seem intimating at first, Donohue found reassurance in the fact that she could tailor her hours and workload to the needs of her own family. “It’s your own business – I think that was key for me,” she explained.
FCC providers are able to create an environment that’s not only ideal for themselves, but the families that they serve. Donohue loves children and devotes herself to catering to their day-to-day needs and the schedules of their parents. Plus, she adds in a lot of fun – from field trips, to picnics, and crafts! Each FCC home is unique, but the types of care that may be offered include: full time day care, part time day care, before and after school care, hourly care, 24-hour and/or overnight care, evening and weekend care, and care for special needs children and mildly ill children. This type of flexibility can’t be found in traditional child care centers and is often an ideal fit for military families.
Donohue feels that there’s a huge need for FCC providers and she highly recommends this business opportunity to Coast Guard spouses who like working with children and live in Coast Guard owned housing. Donohue shares, “the application and start-up process [a background check, medical clearance, and training] did not take a lot of work.” Every step of the way, she was provided support and assistance from the Child Development Services Specialist – the Coast Guard’s point of contact for FCC applicants and providers. “Prior to certification, FCC applicants receive training on a variety of important topics, including child development, nutrition, safety, CPR and First Aid, how to set up their home, curriculum, running their own business, and communicating with parents,” explained Redy.
By speaking to other providers, Donohue was able to learn more about how to structure her business – from her daily schedule to what she should charge for child care services. “As a provider, you really create your own rules – I have loved the freedom that it gives me,” Donohue shared.
Donohue’s only financial investment in her business has been liability insurance, which is required for all FCC providers, but she was able to regain that money pretty quickly. Otherwise, all of the necessary equipment and supplies have been provided to her through the FCC lending locker. Redy feels that the lending locker is an important aspect of the FCC program. “We are able to provide items to help new providers set up their home – including portable cribs, cots, toys, safety gates, car seats, highchairs, and strollers!”
“Starting your Family Child Care business doesn’t have to be scary – because it’s something that you control,” Donohue reassured, “it’s whatever you’re comfortable with – whether you take on one child or multiple children. Maybe you want to start small and grow your business, or maybe you only want to provide part time or after school care.”
This business is whatever you make it, but you can be certain that you’ll be making a difference in the lives of Coast Guard children and their families!
If you have questions about the Family Child Care Program or if you’re interest in becoming a provider, contact your servicing Child Development Services Specialist:
District 1: Maura Redy, 718-354-4404, Maura.Redy@uscg.mil
District 5: Valanda Weston, 609-898-6384, Valanda.M.Weston@uscg.mil
District 11: Lena Gavello, 510-437-3237, Lena.M.Gavello@uscg.mil
District 13: Kelly Smitherman, 503-861-6242, Kelly.M.Smitherman@uscg.mil
District 17: Vanessa Bryant, 907-487-5525, Vanessa.D.Bryant@uscg.mil