Army Family Covenant Saves Schweinfurt Families Thousands
March 14, 2008
SCHWEINFURT, Germany - When measuring an impact of the Army Family Covenant here, one big number jumps out: $25,548.
That is how much just one program - free respite child care hours - saved Schweinfurt families between Aug. 1 and Feb. 29.
The Covenant was launched in October as a promise from Army leadership to its families. In Schweinfurt, however, families had been reaping benefits months before the Covenant was formalized.
"We were a pilot site because we were such a highly impacted garrison," said Kristina Davis, U.S. Army Garrison Schweinfurt Child and Youth Services program operations specialist. With such a large portion of the community's Soldiers deployed, the installation offered a uniquely suited place to test programs such as Super Saturdays and free or discounted care.
In Schweinfurt, the result was the Blue Star program, which offered diverse services ranging from to a monthly night off for parents to 10 free hours of respite care.
"We tried a whole bunch of different things, and the results were evaluated. (Much) of what we did was incorporated into the Armywide program that is now called the Army Family Covenant," Davis said.
Even before implementation of the Blue Star program, the Schweinfurt community was leading the way with deployment care cards offering up to 10 hours of monthly care for all community members.
The Covenant narrows the care focus to those most affected by the Army's up-tempo deployment schedule: deployed, rear-detachment and wounded Soldiers.
With the Covenant, CYS registration fees are waived, making it easier for families to take advantage of programs like free respite care. Hourly care requests have doubled since the implementation of the Blue Star and AFC programs, noted Tina Roberts, CYS administrative assistant.
Finding enough staff to cover sudden surges in care can prove challenging, she added.
"But we always find a way to make sure we have enough providers to serve our community," said Denise D'Adda, assistant director at the Schweinfurt Child Development Center.
Support comes from all quarters of the CYS team, including Roberts, if the need is there.
"We all pitch in to make sure our families have the support they need," Roberts said.
Besides reduced fees and free hourly care, the Covenant has more silent benefits for the CYS program, including additional training, new computer equipment for the CDC, and system upgrades that will eventually allow for electronic records transfer between garrisons, resulting in one less pack of paperwork that parents will have to carry when moving.
In all, the Covenant affects more family-support programs than just CYS, covering all aspects of military family life. But the monetary support offered in CYS programs is certainly being noticed.
"It's a real tangible way for Army leadership to acknowledge the contributions families make," said Davis. "We in CYS have always known that military spouses and military children serve, too. It's great to see leadership backing that up with money and programs, because it's really all about supporting families."