Providing outside-the-box child care for Coast Guard children

Nicole Helms poses for a photo with a few of the children she cares for in her home child care center in Kodiak, Alaska, Coast Guard housing, Jan. 13, 2015.

Nicole Helms poses for a photo with a few of the children she cares for in her home child care center in Kodiak, Alaska, Coast Guard housing, Jan. 13, 2015.

The Coast Guard prides itself on being family-friendly whether that means keeping two married military members located close to each other, promoting a strong ombudsman program or providing resources for child development. In large units like Coast Guard Base Kodiak, National Association for the Education of Young Children accredited Coast Guard Child Development Centers provide many members the relief and security of leaving their children in good hands, many of which are married members of Coasties. However, the CDC isn’t always able to accommodate every child in a base as large as Base Kodiak.

“There is no doubt that Coast Guard families need high quality child care, and family child care providers can fulfill that need,” said Velma Vining, a child development services specialist in Work-Life services at Base Kodiak.

The Family Child Care program was developed by the Coast Guard to offset the cost of starting a home business and to ensure safe, high quality child care in Coast Guard housing. Coast Guard spouses can earn money by providing child care from their base home and earn valuable work experience as a business owner and child care provider. People who choose to become certified attend 24 hours of initial training, go through rigorous background checks and spend hours preparing their homes. Once certified, their work has only just begun.

Under a watchful eye, children play tag at Nicole Helms's home while she cares for them in Kodiak, Alaska, Jan. 13, 2015.

Under a watchful eye, children play tag at Nicole Helms’s home while she cares for them in Kodiak, Alaska, Jan. 13, 2015.

“Family child care providers are truly special people. These gifted spouses are masters of time management, have limitless patience and do it all with a cheerful countenance,” thanks Vining.

Nicole Helms, wife of Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak avionics electrician technician Petty Officer 1st Class Charles Helms, is a student of early childhood education and currently works hand-in-hand with Work-Life in Kodiak to provide a safe, personal child care environment in her on base home.

“I love providing child care for the military because a lot of families like the home environment rather than a center,” said Helms. “I would say that they get more love and one-on-one attention. I have met some wonderful kids that have filled my days with laughter and special memories, as well as grow close to their families. It also eases their minds that I have had a lot of training and a background check through the military and that I am capable of taking care of their child.”

To become a Work-Life promoted child care provider, one must go through quite a few training programs.

“What’s great about getting certified through the Coast Guard is all the training you receive,” said Helms. “I’ve done a shaken baby and sudden infant death syndrome course, CPR and first aid, nutrition and food programs, fire extinguisher training, a course on keeping your home safe for the kids, and more.”

The Work-Life office also provides much needed child care supplies and furniture to the childcare provider.

“Velma has a plethora of knowledge and guidance and I’m so glad to have her,” said Helms. “She is willing and able to provide any training that you might need. She has ordered lots of wonderful items to use in my child care such as: toys, supplies, changing tables, cribs, chairs, musical instruments, a parachute and more!”

One thing that sets this outside-the-box child care option apart from a regular CDC is the personalized care of each child. Helms related that she is completely understanding of the difficult work schedules of military parents and with just a phone call, she is happy to keep a child past their regular pick-up time.

Nicole Helms helps the children under her care build imaginative structures in her home-based child care center in Kodiak, Alaska, Jan. 13, 2015.

Nicole Helms helps the children under her care build imaginative structures in her home-based child care center in Kodiak, Alaska, Jan. 13, 2015.

“Every day I get to spend time with these children is so much fun and there are so many fond memories to share,” said Helms. “I love seeing them grow and learn new things, the big hugs and cuddling on my lap when reading a story and when they proudly show me what they’ve created.”

Anyone interested in learning more about the family and child care resources that the Coast Guard provides should visit their website for the latest news, policies and various programs offered by the Coast Guard’s Work-Life Program.

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