Army programs give children skills, parents peace of mind
March 31, 2010
- Army programs offer specialized child care for military families
- Staff members constantly training to provide quality care for children
HEIDELBERG, Germany - Certain requirements at work demand people to look for appropriate child care programs in their community that will allow them to give more attention to their duties and their family.
The U.S. Army Child, Youth and School Services' School Age Services and Child Development Center programs serve military families and offer child care depending on the family's needs and preferences.
"Our program is really multi-facetted," said Dawn Weik Grossman, U.S. Army Garrison Heidelberg SAS director.
"We all have incorporated multi-cultural programs, such as art, fitness, drama, music, and computer labs."
Besides all of the children's activities, the program also offers two certified teachers helping children with their homework and a full-time cook, serving quality meals to the children.
SAS also partners with Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the 4-H program.
"These (organizations) offer us unique programs that are already developed and implemented throughout the United States," Grossman said.
"We benefit from these programs and we incorporate them. For example, they have a program called Smart Girls. We apply that and help young ladies to learn proper things, we train eating habits and try to steer them away from the negative things that are happening in society."
All children's activities require a well-trained staff and all employees go through the CYSS training schedule, which includes different modules covering topics from safety, to environment, to positive guidance.
"It is not just baby-sitting," Grossman said.
"The training is ongoing. We have to know how to evacuate the children, for example."
Besides interacting, leading activities, and mentoring the children, the staff is required to do lesson plans, prepare what activities they want to offer, and do research on how they are going to operate.
The activities the teachers offer in the room are based on a creative curriculum.
Each classroom has its own weekly lesson plans, which gives parents an idea of what their children are experiencing and learning.
"We try to partner with our local community," she said.
"The U.S. Army Europe band is coming out now and then and they do a small performance for us; they then break it down one-on-one with the children asking questions.
They take their instrument apart; and give an in-depth explanation, perhaps, exposing children to something they have not experienced before.
It is great broadening experience for the children."
The younger the children are, the more staff is required to provide care.
Approximately 40 teachers are responsible for about 135 children from 6-weeks-old to kindergarten age, enrolled in part-time and full-time care, at Heidelberg's CDC.
"A person who works here should be giving and happy and has to really like children," said Michelle Junkin, USAG Heidelberg CDC supervisory program lead.
"(It should be) a person who wants to teach (children) something, and see them grow and see them smile and appreciate the hugs and the laughter. The children give it all back."
With more than 20 years in the child care business, Junkin knows that watching children can be a challenge sometimes.
"Every day something else happens," she said.
"There are different situations you have to go into. It is never boring, it is always exciting."
The teachers in the classrooms teach cognitive, emotional, social, and physical skills, which help the children to develop in those areas.
"... I like to interact and teach the children," Junkin said.
"That is a very important job."
"We provide a lot of learning experiences for the children," said Aubrey McCaster, USAG Heidelberg CDC director.
"And for the family we provide security and knowing that all of their children are being taken care of during the day."
The facility offers diversified care with different programs for different ages, such as an infant program, a toddler program, and several pre-school programs.
"It is important to parents that their children are being prepared to enter school," McCaster said.
"A lot of parents don't have the necessary time to devote that much attention to prepare their children for school, simply because of the duties they have as members of the military."
One aspect of the program is to offer a real-life experience, which teaches children eating habits or lets them witness real occupations, which involve their life.
"We have a so-called family-styled dining," said Michael Tojo, CDC assistant director.
"Family styled dining is having meals that mirror meal time at home - sitting at the table and having age appropriate developmental skills at the table.
For example, if the children are pre-toddler age they would need some assistance with cutting and using their fork, whereas for children at pre-school age, bowls and plates are passed around where children take their own food."
Looking back on 17 years in the child care business, Grossman knows that a desire to work with children is the foremost requirement to become a care giver.
"I have tons of reports, but they get set aside when I have a child with a personal matter," Grossman said.
"I've had kids that just needed someone to talk to - that is way more important. There is a very personal angle to it - making kids happy.
We are like family here."