Fort McCoy News April 10, 2015

CYSS caregiver training sets foundation for best care

Public Affairs Staff

Caregivers in Fort McCoy's Child, Youth and School Services (CYSS) programs receive extensive training to provide the best care for their customers.

Child and Youth Program Assistant Misti Johnson (right) leads an activity with children at the Fort McCoy Child Development Center.

Training and Curriculum Specialist Cindy Storkel leads the training effort for all CYSS employees in the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation. Whether those employees work in the Child Development Center (CDC), School Age Center/Youth Center (SAC/YC), or in another capacity, employees must meet Department of Defense and Army requirements.

"Our training programs are designed to meet tough standards," said Storkel, who has worked in several different Fort McCoy CYSS positions since 1988. "Our customers should know they are getting the best-quality caregivers in our programs."

From the beginning, a new CYSS employee may be placed on either a foundation-level or transition training plan, depending on experience and education. Foundation-level training is for people with little or no experience in child care or youth caregiving. "This training plan takes 18 months of on-the job training to complete from the date of hire," Storkel said.

The transition training plan is for new employees with experience working in a group program and who meet certain education requirements. Storkel said. "These are people who have worked in child care previously and may have a two-year or four-year college degree or a certification related to this kind of work." The transition training plan takes 12 months to complete.

New CYSS caregivers receive orientation training as well as supervised time in the classrooms where they are assigned. Storkel works with each person individually to ensure success. By regulation, CYSS personnel must complete their training in the time required or they cannot work in CYSS programs.

"Part of their orientation is being observed for 16 hours working in the classroom before they are able to work in ratio with the children," Storkel said. "Additionally, within the first several weeks after a new employee begins working in the classroom, I also will complete at least six observations of that employee in their classroom environment."

In both training plans, employees complete modules in a variety of subjects, including regulations; standing operating procedures; child growth and development; parent and public relations; safety and emergency procedures; special needs awareness; and child-abuse identification, reporting, and prevention. "Each employee's training is developed and administered based on the age group of children they will be working with, as well," Storkel said.

Once the initial training is completed at the 12- or 18-month point, employees then transition to an annual individual development plan (IDP) that tracks items such as CYSS-specific and other annual training requirements. Some of this additional training includes CPR and first-aid certification, ethics, customer service, emergency evacuation, use of a fire extinguisher, and U.S. Department of Agriculture food-handler training. Some employees also have a requirement to complete research and lead a special project.

"What many people may not realize is all of our (CYSS) employees have an IDP," Storkel said. "This includes not only our child and youth program assistants (CYPA), but also managers, custodial workers, and administrative personnel. Our programs are among the most watched and most regulated in the Army, so, accordingly, our training is set up to best meet the standards set before us."

SAC/YC Director Cori Yahnke said CYSS personnel also have opportunities to learn from guest trainers, such as Military Family Life consultants, county and state 4-H Club staff, as well as Boys & Girls Clubs of America staff.

"This gives us a broad range of training subjects that can be covered so our staff has the most up-to-date information available on child and youth development," Yahnke said. "Training provided includes hot topics such as teaching children conflict-management skills, anger-management skills for youth, building resiliency, the experiential learning process, bully prevention techniques, and teaching youth communication skills. These are all topics that affect our everyday work and interactions with the youth in our programs."

CYPA Misti Johnson of the CDC said she appreciates all the work Storkel has put into training, and in helping her grow professionally over the past seven years.

Johnson started in CYSS at the foundation level and has earned a child development associate (CDA) credential — a nationally recognized certification for child care programs.

"Cindy puts everything into her job as a trainer for us," Johnson said. "Cindy also always makes sure there are different opportunities for us to better our training as child care teachers, and she works very hard to make sure all of training is done on time and correctly."

"As a child and youth program assistant at a military base, I am expected to know a lot and be trained to take care of all the children in the correct way," Johnson said. "Cindy has put in so much time to help me get my CDA, complete training, and help me understand all the different techniques of teaching and working with all of the different age groups."

Storkel said she's learned from experience that good training leads to good employees. In the case of Johnson and with others, she said it's good to see people excel and achieve greater success.

"Just knowing I've had the time to spend with someone and help them understand the training is fulfilling," Storkel said. "I can understand their position (as a new employee), and my goal is to have everyone succeed."

Because of the training, Fort McCoy's CYSS programs are among the best anywhere, Yahnke said. "Some people might think of the CYSS programs, such as the CDC and the SAC/YC, are simply like any other day care outside the gates or babysitting," Yahnke said. "That isn't the case at all. When your youth enter our doors, we are doing much more than just making sure they are safe until you come pick them up. We are helping them develop social skills, enhancing their cognitive and physical development, teaching them life skills, allowing them to safely discover who they are, and helping them reach their fullest potential.

"This wouldn't be possible without the advanced and continued training that everyone, from direct caregivers to higher management, receives (in CYSS)," Yahnke said.

For more information about CYSS programs and training, call 608-388-8956 or email