Parents Salute Military Child Care
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 22, 2000 So some experts say military child care is the best in the nation. What do parents who entrust their children to the program have to say?
According to those who represented each of the services at a recent Pentagon briefing, the experts got it right.
"We couldn't have managed our working lives as well as we have without the support of the Army's child care program," said Army Staff Sgt. Patricia Ray, whose 21/2-year-old son, C.J., has been enrolled since January 1999 at Fort Belvoir, Va.
"You are welcome to the center at any time," Ray said. "You can just walk in, you don't have to have an appointment. You interact with your kids. They give you suggestions on potty training or better communication -- little things you can do at home to reinforce what they do during the day."
Navy Chief Petty Officer Thomas A. Kreidel's 19-month-old son, Jackson, is enrolled in the child development center at Naval Station Anacostia, Washington, D.C. "My wife and I have peace of mind when we go to work, knowing that our son is well-cared for," Kreidel said. Luckily for me, it's only about a quarter of a mile from where I work. You certainly can't beat the price, and we love the care that he is receiving.
Air Force Master Sgt. Terry Meadows, a 17-year veteran, has two children enrolled at the child development center at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. The NCO commended the center's ability to retain reliable staff.
"Several caregivers that provided care for our first son, Miles, in 1995, are still members of the staff in 2000," Meadows said. "This made our second son Micah's transition to the center smoother, because we have an established trust with the staff."
Meadows said that since his job requires him to go out of town frequently, it gives him a great sense of comfort to know that his wife can depend on the child development center. "She can depend upon them to be open and to give great care," he said. "The ladies at the center interact with the families. They're concerned when the fathers and mothers are out of town. They want to help you out. The level of help they put forward is just amazing."
Meadows' wife, Kimberli, said the care provided by military caregivers is far better than what she's seen at civilian facilities. "They take a more personal approach," she said. "It's not institutionalized. It's heart to heart."
About five years ago, the Meadowses used civilian care for a few months while they were on a waiting list for the military program.
"It was so expensive -- about $175 a week -- and I was very concerned about the lack of training the women had," Kimberli Meadows said. "I was concerned about the discipline they used. They would let the children cry themselves to sleep. At the day care centers at both Andrews and Bolling Air Force bases, they rock them to sleep. They care for them. They're on the floor with them all the time. The civilian day care just didn't measure up."
Her husband pointed out the military care centers provide lunch and snacks. "In the civilian day care centers, that's not necessarily the case," he said. "You have to shop and search for those things. In the military, that's a given. They're going to get a good meal. Oftentimes, without an advance call or anything, we go over and have lunch with them."
Marine Maj. Kimberly A. Graham and her husband, Marine Lt. Col. J.L. Graham, have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old in the child development program at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va. They also used a civilian child care center for a few months, but returned to the military program.
"We came back from overseas in 1998, our son was under a year old and the base center was not available to him, so we decided to try civilian care," she said. "They had strict rules, but they weren't enforced.
"There was a case of lice in the center that lasted three months. There was a tuberculosis case. I saw a provider cleaning the center with four children sitting in a baby buggy. Rather than playing with them or reading them a story, she had them strapped in while she was vacuuming. That was the last straw. I called the center on base that afternoon. I asked to get put on the list, and as a dual active duty couple, we had priority so we waited only a few days to have center care."
Graham's husband, who was unable to attend the briefing, said in a prepared statement that the Quantico child development center is a clean, healthy environment and a fun place for kids to learn and play. He called the staff "first-rate professionals who go out of their way meet both parent's and child's needs. They promote positive social interaction in a loving and nurturing environment. I give Quantico CDC my highest recommendation."