FORT RILEY, Kan. - Personnel from Child and Youth Services presented information about what they are doing to expand child care services on post and in the Central Flint Hills Region during a CYS Town Hall Expansion meeting Nov. 3 at Riley's Conference Center.

The vision of CYS is to provide and sustain quality and affordable programming for all children enrolled in the program, said Nikki Crisman, CYS coordinator.

Currently, Crisman said, there are still 2,400 children under the age of 5 years in need of child care.

"We're very excited to talk about our expansion program," she said. "We have been very fortunate to receive money from the Army in the Army Family Covenant to expand our programs."

Crisman introduced Rosalind Wesley, CYS transition specialist overseeing the construction of all of the child development centers on post, to discuss the expansions.

In terms of expansion, Wesley said, CYS is not only talking about the CDCs, but also Family child care homes on Fort Riley, as well as Army Childcare in Your Neighborhood and Army School-Age Program in Your Neighborhood, both in Junction City and Manhattan.

Since April, Wesley said, CYS has already increased Family child care homes on Fort Riley from eight to 32 homes. In those homes, hours have been extended and weekend hours and 24-hour care has been added.

"With the amount of Families and children we will be getting, we will not be able to service everyone on post," Wesley said. "Not only that, but some parents would like to go to someone in their neighborhood. What we want to make sure is that each Family receives quality care. So when we talk about Army Childcare in your Neighborhood, and also the Army School-Age Program in Your Neighborhood, those spaces are both in Junction City and Manhattan."

Wesley said the purpose of the expansion is to provide additional child care options for Soldiers and their Families.

More child care centers on the way

In terms of new child care centers on post, two 198-space centers are under construction - the Forsyth CDC near the commissary and the Whitside CDC near the hospital. The Forsyth CDC will be the first to open, hopefully at the beginning of 2009, with the Whitside CDC to follow, Wesley said.

Construction on a 100-space modular facility also is underway. The facility will hold about 66 spaces and will be located across the street from the Warren Road CDC.

In addition to the 100-space modular facility, CYS employees are excited because Fort Riley has been chosen to have a multi-functional 135-space facility, she said.

"There will be two core classrooms, but there will also be spaces for (Family Readiness Groups), parents and teachers groups to meet and some SKIES programs, so we're really happy we have that facility coming to Fort Riley," Wesley said.

Coordinators are hoping to have that facility operational by June 2009, Wesley added.

Other future centers include a 232-space facility near the dental clinic on Custer Hill and a mini-emergency CDC with 24-hour care. Both facilities are expected to be completed by October 2009.

The primary goal for the expansion project is to increase infant and toddler spaces, which are the majority of those still on waiting lists, she said.

In addition to talking about the expansion projects, Stacy Groth, CLEOS director, told parents they have the option to go on a Preference for Care list, if they are wanting to change child care from one center to another.

"What you can do is if you are in one of our current facilities and you think maybe the Forsyth CDC might be better, the hospital site might be better, you'd like the option of Family child care or you might need some extended hours, you have the ability to do that," Groth said. "You just need to come in or call central enrollment. We have the paperwork here. You fill out an application and let us know what your preference is, so we can get you on that wait list. As soon as space becomes available, we can give you a phone call and you can accept or deny."

At the meeting, CYS officials highly recommended updating paperwork now for those looking at getting child care in one of the new facilities.

"Right now is the time to come in, update your paperwork, make sure that we have current shot records; whether you're single or dual military; make sure the Family care is in place; and the health assessments are done," Wesley said. "It's a good time to do that right now while it's kind of calm, instead of trying to rush in at the last minute to try to do the paperwork and not have all the information."