Maj. Gen. John "Gil" Meyer, current chief of public affairs, U.S. Army, and former commander of the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center (CFSC), as well as, other Defense Department officials will participate in the White House Conference on Child Care on Oct. 23 to share "lessons learned" about quality child development programs.
Last April, President Clinton recognized the Military Child Development Program as a model for the nation and issued an executive memorandum stating in part: "The Military Child Development Programs have attained a reputation for an abiding commitment to quality in the delivery of child care. The Department of Defense's dedication to adequate funding, strict oversight, improved training and wage packages, strong family child care networks, and commitment to meeting national accreditation standards is laudatory. I believe that the military has important lessons to share with the rest of the nation on how to improve the quality of child care for all our nation's children."
The Defense Department program cares for more than 200,000 children daily, with more than 800 child development centers and school age facilities worldwide, and almost 10,000 family child care homes on more than 300 installations. The Defense Department system offers full-day, part-day, and hourly child care, part-day preschools, before-and-after school programs for school-age children, and extended hour care which includes nights, weekends, and care for shift workers' children.
There are five factors that contribute to the military's success story.
- First, the Defense Department maintains a systematic approach to the three components of the program: child development centers, family child care homes, and school-age care. All components have equal partnership in the system. Training standards, inspections, and background clearances are equivalent.
Second, the Department recognizes the unique child care needs of service parents who are subject to extended training exercises, deployments, separations and special stresses. There is a dollar-for-dollar match of appropriated funds to parent fees in military child development centers.
- The third element is strict oversight of all programs and strict adherence to standards. There are comprehensive, unannounced inspections. Non-compliance with standards can, and has, resulted in closure. As a result, facilities and programs are in good repair.
- The fourth factor is wages and training. Military care giver wages on average are higher than care givers in civilian communities. Training is extensive and those not meeting competency standards are not retained.
- Last, the Defense Department is committed to meeting national accreditation standards. Currently, over 75 percent of all eligible military centers have achieved accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), as compared to the national average of 7 percent.
In the preface to the March 1997, Department of Defense report: "Our Children, America's Future," Secretary of Defense William S. Cohen stated: "Our Child Development Programs have long been considered a model for the nation. . . . The Department of Defense has a strong tradition of instilling America's core values into members. These values drive our commitment to children. By doing all we can to maintain and pass on these values, we will ensure our children are prepared to help build America's future."