Limited childcare not part of closure
Mar. 19, 2013
Shortages in staff, coupled with unexpected absences due to illness, have reduced the CDC workforce here by 25 percent.
SCHWEINFURT, Germany — Jessica Jacobs was in a tight spot. Her family child care provider was unavailable. Hourly child care at the child development center here was booked. With a four-year-old and an infant, she just needed someone to watch her kids.
“If there was a problem, I just wanted to know why,” said Ms. Jacobs, an Army spouse whose husband is currently deployed.
Jessica Jacobs is not alone. Since January, Schweinfurt’s Child Development Center, or CDC, has operated at maximum capacity with reduced staff. Shortages in staff, coupled with unexpected absences due to illness, have reduced the CDC workforce by 25 percent. That’s left many like Ms. Jacobs frustrated and without many options.
“FCC hourly care is a viable option and more often available,” said Michael Payne, the director of Child, Youth and School services who oversees the CDC. Family Child Care is a program offered by the Army established to support specific child care needs for military families. FCC providers — individuals who provide child care in their government quarters — go through the same rigorous certification process and background check as CDC providers. But parents are sometime reluctant to utilize the FCC options, Payne said.
“When I first arrived in Germany I would have never had placed my child in an FCC home,” said Ms. Jacobs, who also works part-time. “But being here in Germany, it’s really the only option.”
Jacobs has been using garrison childcare services for the past year. Using an FCC provider is now her first choice.
“The FCC home that I have found is fabulous. I would put my kids there before I dropped them off at the CDC. I like consistency and routine for my kids.”
But when Jacobs’ FCC home was unavailable, she resorted to using CDC’s hourly care. The CDC, which also offers full- and part-day care, only offers hourly care options on a first-come, first-served basis. When unused slots open up in the full-time care, Payne said, those spots are offered to parents seeking hourly care.
“I just wish there was better communication between the CDC staff and the parents who use the hourly care,” said Jacobs. “If there’s a shortage in staff, tell us.”
And Schweinfurt’s CDC staff is working to provide a solution. Garrison leaders are currently working to better communication between staff and parents. Also, the CYS office is recruiting 15 positions and hs even requested additional intern support from the University of Iowa, in addition to the two currently on staff for both spring and summer rotations, said Payne.
While some parents may be reluctant to leave their children with an FCC provider, Jacobs had this to say: “Establish a relationship now with an ‘emergency FCC provider’ who you can go to in a jam. Get to know them before you leave your kids with them,” she said.
With 11 active homes, Schweinfurt has more FCC providers than any single Army garrison in Europe.
But other options exist for parents beyond the CDC and FCC. Parent Central Services, currently located at The Commons on Ledward Barracks, maintains a complete list of babysitters certified in CPR and first aid. The office can also provide information on childcare centers off-post, though those facilities are not endorsed by the Schweinfurt garrison. Additionally, neighbors can provide up to 10 hours of child care per week, Payne said.
One rumor circulating through the CDC is the possibility that the CDC would stop offering hourly care by the spring of 2013. That’s not true, according to Payne.
“Provided we have staff and space available, we will continue to offer hourly care options in both our CDC and school age center, as well as through FCC,” he said.
What is certain is that child care will be offered until the last Soldiers and families leave Schweinfurt due to the garrison’s closure set for October of 2014.
“CDC services are at a premium right now and our hourly care is down, which has nothing to do with closure. It has everything to do with the fact that we’re just not able to put enough caretakers forward,” said Garrison Commander, Lt. Col. Michael Runey. “If it’s closure-related, we’ll tell you if a service has been modified or closed on the closure site and blog.”
Story by Nathan Van Schaik, USAG Schweinfurt Public Affairs