Blue Star Program Still Shining in Schweinfurt
November 30, 2007
SCHWEINFURT, Germany - The Blue Star Card program - the Schweinfurt Child and Youth Services version of the overall Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command 15:12 initiative - continues to roll on here.
"It's the Army's way of providing extra support to families affected by the extended deployment," said Kris Davis, a CYS program operations specialist for U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt.
For Schweinfurt families, that means being able to save $17,000 since August, when Blue Star started, in costs for regularly scheduled child care, according to Davis. And the Blue Star card has resulted in an additional $10,000 in family savings for sports programs, she noted.
"This is a tangible way that Army leadership is showing that they appreciate sacrifices that our families and Soldiers make," Davis said, noting that the program is designed to benefit families and children of deployed Soldiers, but has since been extended partially to garrison and rear-detachment families as well.
"Perhaps the biggest benefit is relieving some of the stress that families are going through with deployment. We really want to make that as easy and painless as possible," said Michael Payne, the newly arrived Schweinfurt CYS coordinator.
"The CYS team here has done a tremendous job in helping to support needs of the community during a difficult and stressful deployment," Payne said.
The Blue Star card program has been in effect long enough for program officials to evaluate which programs to continue - and where adjustments need to be made.
One change was deciding that the Child Development Center and School Age Services would no longer remain open Thursdays until 8 p.m. The adjustment now allows the staffs to provide free child care to families on day three of reintegration.
"It's a far better utilization of the caregivers' time to be supporting that as opposed to a program not being utilized in the community," Payne said.
The extended Thursdays were not heavily used by families, so officials reviewed how to better serve deployed and reintegrating families, Davis said.
"It's really diverting some of our resources ... to provide that care," she said. "It was our least-used program."
Davis also reminded customers of two important points: Blue Star programs continue for families of the deployed 1st Squadron, 91st Cavalry; and parents should consider the timing of their requests to use hourly care.
"There's usually more availability in the afternoons than in the morning" she said. "They have more than one option."