Working with children reaps rewards

Rosa Clement wears a smile that attests to how much she enjoys her work as a family child care provider as she plays with Aries Fulkerson in her home.

Aries, who is 2.5, has a sparkle in his eyes and smile as big as Clement as he plays with Lego building blocks at a coffee table in the living room.

"This is something I always wanted to do," Clement said.

"Back in Orange County (Calif.) when I worked for Head Start I saw the need for parents to be self-sufficient and likewise for myself.

I not only help myself, but others."

Clement plans to get married Saturday in Flagstaff, where she will then settle with her three children and new husband.

She said she will continue working as a child care provider in that city, but underscored the need for such workers in the Kingman area.

"Working with children is something you feel in your heart," she said.

"It takes a special person for every job."

Clement was a preschool teacher with the Western Arizona Council of Governments Head Start program during 1998-99.

But she decided to follow a dream and go into child care and has worked as a family child care provider for the last seven months, following a three-month training program to prepare her for the responsibilities.

Sandy Garrison, district program manager for the Department of Economic Services Child Care Administration in Yuma, said Clement is one of just 18 certified family child care provider in the Kingman area.

Providers gain certification through DES or the Arizona Department of Health Services, she said.

DES has a contract with the Association for Supportive Child Care (Ninos en mi Casa) to recruit and train child care providers, Garrison said.

"We provide money for providers to become certified," she said.

"That was a barrier in the past because the provider had to have immunizations, a smoke alarm in the home, fingerprint checks and all those things cost money."

A provider's residence is inspected at least twice a year, though DES personnel usually visit on a quarterly basis to ensure all regulations are being followed, Garrison said.

If a complaint is received, DES will investigate immediately, she added.

Clement may have up to four children under her care and supervision at any time.

She said she charges $18 per child per day for up to six hours (full-time).

The age of the child and financial situation of the child's family determine how much DES pays as a subsidy to Clement with the child's family making up the difference.

She also is signed up on the Child Care Nutrition of Arizona program out of Flagstaff.

That agency reimburses her for meals and snacks, served every two hours to children in the home, Clement said.

Her three months of training included how to set up a child care environment in her home with emphasis on safety and fun, guidance on disciplining children, how to work with parents and do billings, Clement said.

Vilma Weigand is the coordinator for Ninos en mi Casa.

She said her association works with family child care providers for up to three months on billings, and providing a lending library with toys, high chairs, cots and cribs.

Weigand said an applicant to be a family child care provider must: have a working telephone; have a backup provider (often the husband) in case of illness; verify he or she is free of any communicable disease including up-to-date vaccinations for measles, mumps and rubella, plus a skin test for tuberculosis; maintain a copy of the immunization record of any child under their care; pass a fingerprint and background check; have child care liability insurance; child-proof their home; be certified, along with the backup provider, in cardiopulmonary resuscitation and first aid; furnish references from three people to whom they are not related and whom they have known for at least one year; sign up for a child nutrition program; show proof of immunizations and rabies shots for any pets in the home.

The provider must stay in compliance with article 52 of the child care law to keep their certification and get six hours of child care-related training per year to maintain that certification, Weigand said.

"There's a great need for more child care providers," Clement said.

"Parents need choices and one way they get them is by finding someone with the same values to look after their children while they work or try to find work."