JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va. –
Something is wrong. It’s June 22, 2021, and the alarm clock reads 5:30 a.m. As she sits up, an uneasiness settles over her; she is almost never the first one awake. Jumping out of bed, Jessica Brathwaite walks to her daughter's room, her stomach filling with dread with each step. The feeling tightens when her instincts are confirmed – her three-year-old daughter has been sick in her bed. As a mother of two, her children are her whole world, but staying home means missing another day of work as a licensed practical nurse (LPN), helping patients in rehabilitation from surgery. When Jessica Brathwaite takes her first sip of morning coffee it leaves a bitter taste in her mouth, and she decides it’s time for a change.
Three months later, Brathwaite transitioned careers from a LPN to a Family Child Care (FCC) provider, opening her home to families whose schedules could not be accommodated by traditional child care options. This choice led her to receive the Fort Eustis’ 2022 Family Child Care Provider of the Year award Mar. 16, 2023 for going above and beyond in her role as a caregiver.
“I had to make a very difficult decision,” said Brathwaite, her eyes uncharacteristically serious as she recalled the morning she decided to make a change. “I had to choose which was more important for me – my employment or my child. At that moment, I didn’t want anyone else to ever experience that gut-wrenching feeling. [Childcare] became my new passion.”
Becoming an FCC provider gave Brathwaite the opportunity to be present for her family, while also showing up to a rewarding job every day. FCC is a program in which certified caregivers offer flexible hours of childcare to a limited number of children in the FCC provider’s own home.
As a caregiver, Brathwaite can be best described as loving, caring and positive, explained Gina Zieber, 733rd Force Support Squadron child and youth program administration assistant.
“She’s always trying to improve her program, always finding different ways to include her children and get their parents involved,” said Zieber.
Brathwaite describes her outlook on being an FCC provider as creating a second family, an extension of their home for the children she looks after. To help them feel as comfortable as possible, she works closely with the parents to learn and accommodate their children’s individual needs.
“Even my ‘day one’ families who [permanently changed station], I’m still in communication with them; holidays and milestones, I still get pictures,” said Brathwaite. “That’s what I love – once you build that bond and the family sees that it’s genuine, people want to keep that energy around, and I do as well.”
For more information on Family Child Care providers, please visit https://jble-eustismwr.com/child-youth-programs/family-child-care-fcc/.