Parent Co-op gives parents a break

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Katherine Windish
  • 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Every parent needs a break, no matter how wonderful their children are. The Parent Co-op, an unfunded, volunteer-run child development center, is working to give stay at home parents some much needed "me time."

"This program is a huge help to me," said Latisha Losse, a Parent Co-op volunteer and patron. "I get to go to the gym, do homework and go shopping - things that would be much more difficult with my 3-year-old and 2-year-old twins."

The Parent Co-op offers child care in exchange for volunteering at the center. A parent can choose any day of the week to volunteer and earn up to four days of free child care for that same week, depending upon the number of children they have. The program runs 9 a.m. to noon, Monday through Friday.

Volunteers must undergo a full background check, provide two references, a record of required immunizations and a current physical, as well as attend the free training provided by the center.

The Parent Co-op trains all volunteers in public health, family advocacy, basic childcare techniques, pediatric first aid and CPR, fire safety and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome prevention. Volunteers may also attend optional early childhood care training and earn up to nine college credits toward an early childhood education degree with Central Texas College for free.

The program is the U.S. Air Forces in Europe solution to the Status of Forces Agreement, which prevents military dependents from running daycares in their homes. Privately run daycares, a common option for military dependents on installations in the continental United States, are not allowed in Italy or most of Europe, making things difficult for families who don't qualify for the base-run child developments centers. The Parent Co-op is completely un-funded, running entirely on donations from private organizations and private parties, which allows parents an opportunity they otherwise would not have had.

In addition to giving parents a break, it also helps socialize both children and parents.

"The children are able to meet others their own age and learn through play," said Lauren Johnson, Parent Co-op coordinator. "Without the program they might have stayed home with their parents, rarely meeting with other children. This gives them an opportunity to make friends and become socialized. They play with toys together, do arts and crafts together, learning and socializing at the same time."