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President Lauds DoD Child Care

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 23, 1997 – DoD's child care is the best in the land. The president said so, and he's asked DoD officials to share their expertise.

"I believe the military has important lessons to share with the rest of the nation on how to improve the quality of child care for all of our nation's children," Clinton wrote in a memorandum to Defense Secretary William S. Cohen.

Clinton announced the initiative for sharing the military's child care knowledge April 17 after a day-long White House Conference on Early Childhood Development and Learning. "The military child development programs have attained a reputation for an abiding commitment to quality in the delivery of child care," he said.

Clinton praised DoD's for providing enough money to make child care affordable and for setting up strong family child care networks, including a hotline for parents to report concerns. He said the military provides strict oversight of its facilities, including four unannounced inspections each year. He also commended DoD's improved training and wage packages for child care workers and its commitment to meeting national accreditation standards.

About 72 percent of DoD's child care programs -- 337 of 466 facilities -- have been accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, compared to 5 percent nationally, DoD officials said.

Clinton urged Cohen to work with the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies to help federal, state and local agencies, as well as private and nonprofit groups to improve child care services. Specifically, the president directed DoD to report in six months and in a year on the status of efforts to:

o Develop partnerships with civilian programs in their local communities so DoD staffs can help local officials attain credentials and accreditation;

o Establish child care programs of excellence to offer civilian providers training courses in model practices for child care centers, family child care homes and school-age facilities;

o Share models and information on financing strategies, training and compensation, accreditation and evaluation, playground and facility design and support systems linking individual family child care providers; and

o Work with state or county employment offices and job training programs to allow military child development centers and family care homes to serve as training sites for welfare recipients.

"The Department of Defense programs could provide on-the-job training, work experience and an understanding of the best practices for the delivery of child development services," Clinton stated.

In a report to the president prior to the conference, Cohen said DoD is committed to the development, education and well-being of the military's children and families. "We are very proud of our efforts in support of young children and appreciate the opportunity to share our accomplishments and vision for the future," he said.

DoD has the largest employee-sponsored child care program in the world, serving over 200,000 children, from birth to 12 years of age, daily, said Patricia Kasold, a senior adviser in DoD's Office of Family Policy, Support and Services.

Parents pay an average weekly fee of $65. These fees account for about 50 percent of the child care cost, the department pays the rest. This fiscal year DoD's child care bill is $273.3 million.

Care givers at DoD facilities earn about $10 per hour, including benefits as compared to minimum wage for many civilian caregiving staff, Kasold said. In 1990, DoD started a wage program to give incentives for completing training and allows management to reward outstanding performers with wage increases.

All care givers who work with children are required to complete "competency-based" training, Kasold said. "Since completion of training results in a pay increase, there is a real incentive to complete training," she said.

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