Parent Co-op gives parents a break

Lauren Johnson, Parent Co-op coordinator, helps two children make Father’s Day cards at the Aviano Parent Co-op June 16. The Parent Co-op is an unfunded volunteer-run child development center that 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. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katherine Windish)

Lauren Johnson, Parent Co-op coordinator, helps two children make Father’s Day cards at the Aviano Parent Co-op June 16. The Parent Co-op is an unfunded volunteer-run child development center that 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. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katherine Windish)

Mara Hahn, daughter of Melissa Hahn, plays at the Parent Co-op, making Father’s Day cards with the other children June 16. The Parent Co-op is an unfunded volunteer-run child development center that 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. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katherine Windish)

Mara Hohn, daughter of Melissa Hohn, makes Father’s Day cards with other children at the Aviano Parent Co-op June 16. The Parent Co-op is an unfunded volunteer-run child development center that 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. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katherine Windish)

Quinn Losse, son of Latisha Losse, plays at the Parent Co-op, making Father’s Day cards with the other children June 16. The Parent Co-op is an unfunded volunteer-run child development center that 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. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katherine Windish)

Quinn Losse, son of Latisha Losse, makes Father’s Day cards with other children at the Aviano Parent Co-op June 16. The Parent Co-op is an unfunded volunteer-run child development center that 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. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Katherine Windish)

AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- 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."

For more information about the Parent Co-op, call Ms. Johnson at DSN 632-5630.