A wrinkle of fate: Mom becomes family child care provider

  • Published
  • By Margie Arnold
  • 21 Force Support Squadron Marketing
A wrinkle of fate led Irene Penaflor to become a Family Child Care provider.

At the time, her three-year-old son had health issues, so, rather than look for a job outside the home, she stayed home to give him the focused care he needed. While she was caring for him, she realized a couple of crucial things. One is that she loves children. She adores them! And then, number two, she gave serious thought to caring for other peoples’ children in her home. With encouragement from her husband, Penaflor completed required training and became a certified FCC provider for the U.S. Air Force.

When she opened her door to her first FCC child, a three-month old, she fussed over her the way she fusses over her own children. Being a provider is work, no doubt about it, but the rewards are many, and they don’t end when those children grow older and move on. Well, that three-month old girl is now 11 years old, and she and Penaflor stay in touch, texting one another from time to time.

“The best part is watching them grow and bonding with them,” Penaflor said.

Currently, Penaflor has several children in her care, one of which is an eight-month-old.

“We do baby sign language, which children learn with repetition. It’s fun to see them pick it up and be able to communicate with you,” she says.

Young children learn and grow quickly, sometimes making major advances seemingly overnight. When parents arrive to pick up their children, Penaflor shares with them what their child did or said that day so the parents feel connected to their child’s development, even though they’re at work. She also admits being sensitive to how important it is for parents to be the first to witness their child’s milestones, such as their first word or first step.

FCC providers are not babysitters, said Penaflor.

Janet Martineau, FCC coordinator at Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, emphasized they’re certified and licensed in-home care providers for Air Force families living either on or off base, and their homes must comply with Air Force child care regulation.

Air Force standards for child care are more stringent than those of the state of Colorado. During unannounced monthly inspections providers can make sure their homes and practices are compliant with Air Force regulations, which are all about providing children with a safe and vibrant learning environment, Martineau added.

FCC providers will hold functions for the children in their care. For example, they have functions such as Easter, a fall fest, and a spaghetti dinner. They can also hold a summer bash, where they make their own ice cream and enjoy a splash pad. It’s great camaraderie for the care providers and a blast for the kids.

“One of the things I love about being a Family Child Care provider here at Peterson AFB, aside from the kids, is the support and backup I get from the FCC coordinator and from the other providers,” said Penaflor.

The FCC office has an abundance of age-appropriate equipment that providers can borrow. This equipment is meant to enrich the play and learning experience for children. Plus, Penaflor adds, the FCC coordinator is supportive and encouraging of her efforts to achieve additional professional certification that would advance her career in the child care field.

Penaflor has worked hard to foster a mutual deep affection between her and the children in her care. They trust her, just as their parents do.

“I love what I do, and I’m doing my part in support of the Air Force,” Penaflor says with a wide grin.

For anyone considering becoming an FCC provider, Penaflor has this advice:

• Above all else, you have to love children.
• An FCC provider wears multiple hats: mom, cook, and educator. Embrace them all.
• If you’re thinking about this as a career, ask to do a job shadow for a day and observe the FCC provider’s role with children and their role with parents.
• Caring for small children can seem overwhelming but don’t be discouraged. Laugh at those little stressful moments.
• An FCC provider deals with multiple personalities – the children’s and the parent’s. Keep an open mind. Be constructive in your communication.
• Remember: Every day is full of opportunities.

For more information about becoming a FCC provider at Peterson AFB, call the FCC coordinator at 719-556-4322.