November 3, 2011
FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Fort Jackson continues to adjust its child care fees in an effort to meet a DoD mandate that requires installations to adhere to the DoD fee scale by the beginning of school year 2013-2014. The fee restructuring, which will be achieved in three phases, began last year and will include one more adjustment next fall.
At the end of the restructuring, fees for child care will be the same across all installations in standard-cost areas, which will allow parents to accurately budget for child care costs regardless of duty station, said Rose Edmond, chief of Child, Youth and School Services.
The new pricing policy will go into effect Dec. 1, and the fee changes depend on the parents' Total Family Income category.
"The increase will range from no increase to an $8.30 per week increase for the highest income category," said Col. James Love, garrison commander. "The new fees are still a great deal in comparison to fees charged by comparable programs in the local community."
Fees for children in Family Child Care homes and hourly care rates will remain the same, Edmond said. To give parents time to prepare for the change, CYSS has issued letters to parents informing them of the new price system.
Edmond said that for most people, depending on their TFI, on-post facilities will continue to offer lower prices for child care than those off post, in addition to providing stringent standards for the quality of care.
"Probably the biggest difference is in the adult-to-child ratio. (Off-post centers) may require one adult for five (children), whereas we require one adult for four," Edmond said. "So, just the difference in the adult-to-child ratio can make a difference in the quality of care, because one of the prime indicators of quality care is the amount of adult time that the child can get during the day."
The biggest difference between on-post and off-post pricing can be found in after school programs, which serve more than 200 children on Fort Jackson, Edmond said.
Edmond added that as a mother who depended on child care for her own children, she understands that price increases can be hard on families.
"We fully recognize that child care is a huge expense for many people, probably comparable to their house payment or their mortgage," Edmond said. "But I think that if you look at it from the perspective of 'What am I paying per hour for somebody to care for my child?' it sometimes puts it in perspective. We'll take a car to an auto shop and pay $50 an hour labor to get it fixed. When you look at the child care rates and the per-hour cost, it doesn't even come up anywhere near. Full-day care is well below the cost of hourly child care, which is $4 an hour."
For those parents who struggle to pay for their children's care, Fort Jackson may offer a hardship consideration policy. To qualify for the policy, parents should contact CYSS. Parents will then be referred to Army Community Services for a meeting with a financial counselor.
"That person makes a recommendation on what the fee should be," Edmond said. "Generally, it's a temporary thing, because (the financial counselor) will discuss with them other things that they might do to get their finances in line so they're not having problems."
The request will then be forwarded to the garrison commander for approval.
Edmond said there are other ways for parents to save on child care costs.
"(The Partnership Connection) is a parent partnership program where they can volunteer 10 hours in our programs and get points that they can then use to get a discount on their rates," Edmond said. "So once they have 10 points, they can get a 10 percent discount on their fees for one child for the month. If they earn 20 points in that month, then they can get the discount on two children or they can use the discount on one child for two months."
Discounts offered for children of wounded warriors or deployed Soldiers, as well as sibling discounts, will not be affected by the fee changes.
In addition to the fee adjustment, a policy change is on the horizon regarding vacation time. Currently, families using full-day child care are allowed two weeks of vacation time during which the child's spot is reserved.
"For this next year, we actually will have two different rate schedules. We'll have a rate schedule for those families who want a two-week vacation during the year versus those families who want to take a four-week vacation," Edmond said. "Now (families will) have an option of whether they want two weeks or four weeks."
For example, under the new policy, a family in Category 4 would pay $436 a month with two weeks' vacation time or $456 a month with four weeks' vacation time.
Tai Drayton, a military spouse who works as a DA civilian at the Soldier Support Institute, said she selected on-post child care for her almost 2-year-old son, Xavier, over child care facilities in her Northeast neighborhood when she moved here last year.
"We took (off-post centers) into consideration, but their hours wouldn't have fit the type of hours that would have been convenient for us," Drayton said. "(Xavier) goes on post because it's more convenient for me and my husband. We can alternate dropping him off and picking him up. Not only that, but I think they provide the services that we need as a military family. It's just very convenient for us."
Drayton said her husband is planning to stay in the Army for the long haul and she plans to keep her son in military child care facilities.
"We probably have a few more moves to go and knowing that (child care) will be a standard cost is good to know," she said.