Shareeda Burns, a Fort Belvoir Family Child Care provider, teaches children in her Lewis Village living room, Jan. 4. Burns said she enjoyed watching children develop in her home-based business, which is supervised by MWR's Child and Youth Services.

Fort Belvoir FCC home-based businesses a win-win

A couple’s decision to have a child has many impacts on quality of life. The cost of childcare can create a steep decline in Family net income, and a second child may even equal the amount of the working spouse’s salary. That is a tough decision facing many Families, as 61% of American Families see both parents heading off to work, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

By participating as a Family Child Care (FCC) provider, Fort Belvoir spouses have the ability to not only work from home but also set their own work schedule. FCC provides quality home-based care for children 4 weeks to 12 years old to those who are willing to run a childcare facility in their on-post residence.

In Lewis Village, a living room was cordoned off from the rest of the house, as several smiling, squealing toddlers played with clay and painted. Keeping a watchful eye on them was Shareeda Burns, an FCC provider for more than a year, after she and her husband, Sgt. 1st Class Myrion Burns, now with Army Geospatial Intelligence Battalion, PCS’d here from Germany.  Burns told the Belvoir Eagle that it wasn’t easy for an American spouse to find employment in Germany, so she decided to try FCC.

“With one car, it was difficult, so I tried FCC for the first time, and I loved it,” she said, adding that all of her required training easily transferred with their move to Fort Belvoir.

Burns said unlike many jobs, FCC brings satisfaction on several levels.

“First of all, I just love to see the smile on the children’s faces that I’m teaching as they learn new things. They get excited about that and it makes me feel good,” said Burns. “It’s also knowing I’m giving back to the military community and helping other Families.”

Burns pointed out that “this is one time when you can choose your own Family,” as each provider has a chance to interview and approve prospective Families.

“I sit down with prospective Families and ask questions about their traditions and I recommend they bring the child with them during the interview so they can get a feel of my home.”

Ayesha Mahaffey, director of Fort Belvoir’s Family Child Care program, helps interested providers understand the process of setting up their home, and provides them with curriculum, materials and guidance on child development. Once they open their home, she oversees the operation.

“It’s like a one-stop shop,” she explained. “I oversee everything from enrollment to inspections and supporting financial needs, including government subsidies.

“If you live on post, you’re able to support the military community and have an in-home business. It’s a great opportunity for military spouses,” Mahaffey said, adding that “with the combination of parent fees and subsidies, it is a lucrative business that’s been more enticing to people who have a passion for children.”

Mahaffey said the providers set their own schedules, from the hours that they open to the hours that they close, and what days they can provide care.

The income as an FCC provider is anywhere from $1,000 to $1,800 per child each month, depending on provider experience, education level, and the age of the child. The parent pays a portion of that, based on their total Family income, with the government picking up the rest to reach the qualified payment cap.

Mahaffey stressed this job is not for everyone, though. There are regular health, fire and safety inspections, “so you have to be willing to open up your home to these types of inspections at any given point during your operating hours,” said Mahaffey, which is why she sits down with the whole household - children included -to discuss implications, “because this is a Family venture.”

Routine inspection is just one barrier to entry. She said another hurdle the Garrison faces in growing the program is the amount of unauthorized childcare that takes place. Whether you think of it as ‘just baby-sitting’ or ‘helping your neighbor,’ there are requirements centered around the safety of the children. Mahaffey said anything exceeding 10 cumulative hours of childcare per week is unauthorized.

“It’s circumventing standards and quality of care and the extra set of eyes to ensure children are as safe as possible. I think it’s primarily a lack of knowledge and it hinders the growth of FCC,” said Mahaffey. “If two of my neighbors each had a child, and they asked me to watch them, I could legally watch them for one hour each day, Monday through Friday, and stay within the guidelines of what’s acceptable. It’s 10 cumulative hours, not per child.”

Mahaffey said it’s a great chance for spouses to take care of their own child, while boosting family income, “and you can do it right at home.”

Burns said Fort Belvoir is their last duty station, and she is so inspired that this will remain her career arc.

“When I leave here, I plan to open a childcare building. That's what I want to do; that’s now my long-term dream.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the benefits of FCC can visit the Fort Belvoir FCC Page, or contact Parent Central Services at 703-805-5555.
You can also contact Mahaffey directly at 703-805-1824.

Paul Lara, Fort Belvoir Public Affairs