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(Enlarge) Monica Richie, a Fort Meade family child care provider, is joined by her husband, Spc. Keith Richie, their three children and Spencer Nielson, 3, and Cooper Stevens, 22 months. Richie, one of more than 45 certified, family child care providers on post. For more information about the Fort Meade FCC, call 301-677-1160.

After Vanessa Wagner became a Fort Meade family child care provider in 2003, she worked for three years until her husband, Navy Chief John Wagner, was reassigned to the Naval Base San Diego, Calif.

When Wagner returned to the installation in 2009, she renewed her commitment.

"It's an honor for parents to trust you with their most prized possession," the Meuse Forest resident said.

Wagner is one of more than 45 child care providers on post who are certified by the installation to provide day care for military personnel and DoD civilians.

The program has five child care providers who work off post and are licensed by the state in addition to their FCC certification.

"We are the equivalent of a child center without walls," said Patricia Hardy, an FCC director.

About 265 children are enrolled in the program and registered to participate through Parent Central Services on Reece Road.

The FCC certification process is rigorous. Prospective child care providers must be at least 18 years old and high school graduates. They are required to attend an orientation session as well as six days of training in child development, health, nutrition, communicable diseases, special needs, fire and safety standards, child abuse identification and prevention, and administrative paperwork.

Providers also receive training in CPR once a year and in first aid every three years.

Background checks are conducted every year on providers and their family members ages 12 and older who live in the home. Once the initial background check is cleared, Hardy and Christine Matthews, the program's co-director, inspect the provider's home.

The home also is inspected by the Fort Meade Fire Department, the Installation Safety Office and a public health nurse from Kimbrough Ambulatory Care Center.

Once providers pass these inspections, they are certified.

FCC providers are free to set their own fees and may care for a total of six children, two of whom can be under age 2. If the provider's children are under age 8, they are included in the total.

Hardy said it is important for the Fort Meade community to know that it is a violation of Army regulations for anyone to provide home child care on the installation for more than 10 hours a week on a regular basis without FCC certification.

Those on Fort Meade who provide unauthorized day care may lose their housing privileges and jeopardize the career of their military family member.

Wagner cares for six children, ages 5 months to 4 years old. She said she always has had an interest in children, starting from her roots in the Baptist church and her work as a Sunday school teacher for the past 25 years.

A military wife for 21 years and mother of three, Wagner said she was both a stay-at-home mom and also had a career, so she understands the demands on military families.

"Children have different needs," she said. "Some children will never adapt to a child center. They need to be in a home away from home. I'm not their mom, but I'm a mom."

Monica Richie has been a FCC provider for nine months. The Midway Commons resident cares for three children, ages 22 months to 3 years old, in addition to her three children.

"It's been really good," said Richie, wife of Spc. Keith Richie, a lab technician at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. "I like that I'm able to stay home with my daughter. She is able to interact with the kids. It's really been good."

Before moving to Fort Meade in July, Richie worked as an administrative assistant at the Fort Detrick of Silver Spring Child Development Center.

Richie's husband said the FCC program is a good opportunity for his wife.

"I think it's good for her and that she gets to stay home," he said. "There's plenty for her to do with the family."

Tanya Crowley, a DoD contractor, said she is pleased with the quality of service she receives through the FCC program. Richie cares for Crowley's 2-year-old son Jalen.

"I think it's great," Crowley said. "I like the oversight of the program and that the providers get regular visits from the administrators. It makes me feel real comfortable that the providers are certified in different areas."

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