Friday, March 10, 2017

Over the past month, the federal hiring freeze has become a challenge for some Army families. At least three child care centers on three different Army installations have been forced to reduce child care slots due to the inability to hire employees.

Child care staff positions are paid through nonappropriated funds and are usually exempt from hiring freezes. However, the Implementation of Workforce Hiring Freeze memorandum, issued Feb. 3 by the Department of Defense, clearly states that “the freeze impacts all Department of Defense positions, regardless of funding source.”

Although the memo goes on to identify a select group of positions deemed necessary to the department’s “national security and public safety responsibilities,” of which child care workers are listed, the vague directions for the process of applying for the exemptions have been confusing at best.

Luckily, Army families do have other options: the Army Fee Assistance Programs administered by Child Care Aware of America. These programs were created to provide authorized Army personnel with assistance in locating, selecting and offsetting the cost of civilian child care when on-post child care is not available or is not a viable option for a soldier and his or her family.

But selecting civilian child care providers can be daunting, especially for military parents who have not used civilian providers before. Worry no more. Here are five steps to choosing safe and healthy child care, as provided by www.Childcareaware.org:

  1. Look. Visit the child care programs you are considering. Are children watched at all times, including when they are sleeping? Do adults and children wash their hands (after using the bathroom, changing diapers, eating, etc.)? Is the play space organized and are materials easy to use? Are materials available at all times? Is the outdoor area a safe place for children to play? Are positive behavior guidance techniques used?

  2. Check. Are medications labeled and out of children’s reach? Are cleaning supplies and other poisonous materials locked up, out of children’s reach? Is there a plan to follow if a child is injured, sick or lost? Are first aid kits readily available? Are nutritious foods and beverages served to children?

  3. Count. Count the number of adults and the number of children they supervise. In centers and family child care homes, children should be in groups of no more than:
    • One caregiver per three or four infants.
    • One caregiver per three or four young toddlers.
    • One caregiver per four to six older toddlers.
    • One caregiver per six to nine preschoolers.
  4. Ask. Have the adults been trained to care for children? Is there always someone present who has current CPR and first aid training? Are the adults continuing to receive training on caring for children? Have satisfactory criminal history background checks been performed? Has the program been inspected by the licensing agency within the last 12 months? Will you be given a copy of the program’s policies?

  5. Be informed. If you wish to use the Army Fee Assistance Programs, contact Child Care Aware at 800-424-2246. A military fee assistance specialist will assist you with determining your eligibility, starting your application online, and giving you an enhanced child care referral, if desired. Child Care Aware of America’s enhanced referral specialists will ask questions to learn about your child care needs, and a personalized search will be conducted for your family. Referrals will be sent via email within three business days.

If you are not eligible or would not like to apply for military fee assistance, your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency can provide you with a list of state licensed child care referrals. To find your local agency, visit http://childcareaware.org/families/.