[ The Real McCoy Online Home ]                                                                                                                       April 10, 2009

Military child care takes top quality 
spots in national report

By Gerry J. Gilmore, American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, D.C. ó The Department of Defenseís (DoDís) stateside military child care system took first place in the categories of quality oversight and standards for a second time as part of a national child care advocacy groupís report, a senior official said.

Photo: An exterior view of the new Child Development Center at Fort McCoy. The facility is scheduled to be complete later this year. (Photo by Rob Schuette)
An exterior view of the new Child Development Center at Fort McCoy. The facility is scheduled to be complete later this year. (Photo by Rob Schuette)

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies recently examined child care practices in 50 states and the District of Columbia for its most-current report and awarded the DoD the highest marks for quality for child care oversight and standards, said Barbara Thompson. Thompson, the director of the Pentagonís Office of Family Policy, Children and Youth, made her remarks to Pentagon Channel and American Forces Information Service reporters.

The association twice has reported on child care licensing standards to assess their quality of oversight and standards, Thompson said. 

The Defense Department also earned the same honors in the groupís 2007 report, she said.

"This is the second time that we were Number 1 in both oversight and standards," Thompson said. "No other state has ever reached that, so weíre very, very proud of this achievement."

Jan Fink, the Fort McCoy Child Youth and School Services (CYSS) coordinator, said she sees the most-critical points of the study being a balance between strong standards and the amount of oversight the regulatory agency has over programs.

Both components are necessary to have a quality program, she said.

During a recent training session, she learned the DoD and the state of Oklahoma tied for first place in the report for oversight, with 45 out of a possible 50 points.

Figures compiled for the state of Wisconsin system indicated a score of 19 points out of 50 in the oversight category, which ranked in the bottom 10. The state, however, had strong rankings in the regulation score, and finished sixth overall.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children, which has accredited the Fort McCoy Child Development Center, has a benchmark of no more than 50 child care programs per licensing staff. This ratio allows staff to more effectively monitor programs, Fink said.

"A manageable caseload for licensing staff protects children from unhealthy and unsafe care," Fink said. "The emphasis on quality for DoD child care truly supports our mission of supporting readiness and well-being of families."

One in four active Army Soldiers use CYSS services, according to Army statistics. Fink said the Army Family Covenant communicates the Armyís commitment to provide Soldiers and their families with a quality of life commensurate with their service.

"The emphasis on the quality of DoD child care programs sends the message that the Army cares about its families," Fink said.

In addition, Fink noted the costs for the DoD and Fort McCoy child care programs often are comparable to or better than the corresponding average state fees.

The highest annual cost for a child to be cared for in the Fort McCoy program, which is determined by family income, still is several thousand dollars less than the state fees, she said.

Thompson said two-time recognition by the association reinforces the fact that military families can be rest assured that the DoD provides top-quality child care.

"I think it gives you the satisfaction and the peace of mind that the Department of Defense is very committed to quality and that children who are in our child-development system receive very high quality care across their development," Thompson said.

Military families that enroll their children in DoD-sponsored child care facilities should know "that your child is safe and is in a learning environment," Thompson said. Such knowledge, she added, helps military members focus on their jobs.

Quality child care is important, Thompson said, because the key formative development years for children takes place between ages 1 through 5.

"When we do the right mix of quality care-giving, learning activities, opportunities for physical play, Ö these children are thriving," she said.

Such an environment "really does set the tone for their future in elementary school and further on," Thompson said.

Care-givers employed at Defense Department-sponsored child care facilities receive stringent training and are required to meet the highest standards, Thompson said.

"We lead the way in the country of setting the standards and oversight of what constitutes a good early childhood program," Thompson said.


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