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Lara Varcasia, the Family Child Care coordinator at Misawa Air Base, Japan, stands next to a shelf of doll houses among toys and other supplies that licensed Family Child Care providers can borrow for their homes. The base needs more in-home providers. Mandatory training starts Monday for anyone interested in getting licensed.

Lara Varcasia, the Family Child Care coordinator at Misawa Air Base, Japan, stands next to a shelf of doll houses among toys and other supplies that licensed Family Child Care providers can borrow for their homes. The base needs more in-home providers. Mandatory training starts Monday for anyone interested in getting licensed. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Lara Varcasia, the Family Child Care coordinator at Misawa Air Base, Japan, stands next to a shelf of doll houses among toys and other supplies that licensed Family Child Care providers can borrow for their homes. The base needs more in-home providers. Mandatory training starts Monday for anyone interested in getting licensed.

Lara Varcasia, the Family Child Care coordinator at Misawa Air Base, Japan, stands next to a shelf of doll houses among toys and other supplies that licensed Family Child Care providers can borrow for their homes. The base needs more in-home providers. Mandatory training starts Monday for anyone interested in getting licensed. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

Kim Wirfs, 31, an Air Force spouse who's been a Family Child Care provider for five years, ensures snack time runs smoothly for the children she cares for, including two of her own, Friday at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Kim Wirfs, 31, an Air Force spouse who's been a Family Child Care provider for five years, ensures snack time runs smoothly for the children she cares for, including two of her own, Friday at Misawa Air Base, Japan. (Jennifer H. Svan / S&S)

MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Lara Varcasia, Misawa’s Family Child Care coordinator, typically doesn’t advertise upcoming training dates for new providers.

A year ago at this time, the base had 27 licensed in-home child care providers, more than enough for Misawa’s needs.

But recent permanent-change-of-station moves have whittled down the pool to 13.

“We only have a couple of providers with openings. Most are full,” she said.

The Child Development Center also has a waiting list.

But so far, FCC hasn’t had to turn away families, finding a temporary slot for a child, in some cases, until a spot opens at the Child Development Center, Varcasia said.

In the meantime, Varcasia is trying to get the word out that more in-home providers are needed.

Spouses of active-duty members can take the first step toward getting a provider’s license by attending five days of mandatory training that begins at 8:30 a.m. Monday. Varcasia said people still can sign up the first morning of training in Building 697.

The training is free and is scheduled next for March.

It can take four weeks, at a minimum, to get a Family Child Care license at Misawa, Varcasia said. And the job isn’t for everybody.

The requirements are stringent, she said.

“Some think it’s baby-sitting and it’s easy money. It is not,” she said. “We need to ensure a professional service is provided and that the child is safe. As a mom, I need to go to work every day and know that my child is taken care of.”

Providers must keep a schedule and engage the children in a variety of activities; television viewing is limited. They’re trained in food handling, first aid and CPR. They have to submit to a background check (as do other family members), childproof their homes, get daily menus approved and continue with periodic training. Varcasia pops in once a month unannounced to check on a home.

But for those willing to go the distance, the job can be rewarding.

“It’s a good business,” she said. “If you provide quality care, the parents will use Family Child Care.”

Kim Wirfs, an Air Force spouse who’s been a Family Child Care provider for five years, said she likes that “I get to be home with my own children while being able to help contribute to the household income.”

Providers can set their own hours and fees. They can care for no more than six children at a time, ages 2 weeks to 12 years, including one’s own children under the age of 8. No more than two children in a home can be 2 or younger.

The job can be challenging, Wirfs allowed, especially caring for children of diverse ages. “But that can be the most fun part, too,” she said.

Wirfs is one of two providers at Misawa awaiting a decision on whether they’ll be accredited through the National Association of Family Child Care, the highest certification available for Air Force providers.

Providers don’t have to put out much money up front to get started, Varcasia said. Family Child Care at Misawa has a building full of free equipment and supplies, from thermometers and safety locks for drawers to games, toys and books.

“It doesn’t cost much to open a home,” Varcasia said.

author picture
Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
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