By Chrystal Smith, USAG Wiesbaden Public AffairsNovember 19, 2008
WIESBADEN, Germany - Once the ink dried on the Army Family Covenant, the demand for community family and youth programs at U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden surged.
Indeed, increased funding, delivered by the Covenant, particularly benefitted child care and youth programs.
"We have hundreds of families who would have never used our programs had it not been for (the Covenant)," said Tara Paprzycki, Child, Youth and School Services deployment specialist.
Overall, recognizing that the strength of the Soldier is rooted in the welfare of the family, the Army reaffirmed a commitment to Army families through the Covenant.
On Oct. 30, 2007, Wiesbaden military community leaders, Soldiers and families assembled to witness the signing of the document that promised Army families a quality of life commensurate with their service to the nation.
In turn Soldiers and families looked forward to the benefits of standardized and funded programs and services, increased accessibility to and quality of health care, improvements to housing, expanded education and employment, as well as a guarantee of excellence in schools, youth and child care.
Subsequently, Child and Youth Services underwent a name change - now known as Child, Youth and School Services - and modified operations to support the needs of families here.
"The Army streamlined regular processes, made them easier to use and the registration fee was eliminated. By offering free (programs), the community gets involved," said Paprzycki, who added that many families did not use CYS Services previously because registration was a hassle and programs were expensive.
Accordingly, one telephone line was added to book hourly child care appointments for all Wiesbaden child care facilities. "This was a tremendous addition, because it saved people the time of going from center to center seeking an opening for hourly child care," said Paprzycki.
"The registration process has been standardized Army-wide," noted Paprzycki, who said once a child is registered parents need only update their information when a permanent change of station occurs.
As a result of funding and standardization, enrollment in CYS Services programs increased by more than 400 percent from August 2007 to 2008.
"August is usually the busiest time for enrollments in CYS Services programs because it coincides with the start of school," said Paprzycki.
CYS Services managers expanded the offerings for child care by increasing the number of spaces offered for hourly care, opening new homes that provided extended and overnight care, and increased the offerings of special Friday night and Saturday care, as well as free child care during Family Readiness Group meetings.
"We used to offer one Friday and Saturday special care per quarter, but Army Family Covenant funding gave us flexibility to offer one Friday and two Saturdays per month during the deployment," said Paprzycki, who added that more than 90 percent of usage during those times is free hours allotted under the covenant.
The result' Managers of Wiesbaden Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation programs - such as Army Community Service, Sports and Fitness, and Outdoor Recreation - have seen a boost in participation.
"The greater availability of free and discounted child care has made it possible for more people to participate in our programs," said Diane McManus, ACS Employment Readiness manager.
"Child care impacts all of our programs," said Martila Seals, interim ACS chief, noting relevance of available child care to successful ACS programs.
In some cases AFC funding created jobs, as promised, to field the influx.
As a result CYS Services added five personnel to the staff - one deployment specialist, an administration assistant, and three child and youth program assistants.
"My job was previously divided among three different people, but my position was created to centralize the responsibility," said Paprzycki who identifies and tracks CYS Services needs for families of deployed service members.
ACS grew by two to employ an additional Family Advocacy Program specialist and a volunteer coordinator.
"It's a really important position because Soldiers are always in need of some aspect of Family Advocacy," said Annamaria Doby, Family Advocacy Program specialist, who explained the mission of family advocacy as prevention of child and spousal abuse through the administration of education and support programs.
"Now with a volunteer coordinator, we can do non-traditional programs that wouldn't have been possible without AFC [Army Family Covenant]," said Seals, adding that a main goal is to increase family programs and create new programs to capture the new generation of Army families. "AFC is helping us to do those things."
In other cases AFC funding enhanced programs and services offered to the community.
"AFC has funded many new projects to include fitness equipment to expand operations, and Outdoor Recreation equipment, to ensure we offer standardized services throughout Europe," said Danny Sullivan, Community Recreation Division chief.
In terms of tangible evidence, that means new spin bikes, BOSU balls, Kettlebell weights and some modifications in the Wiesbaden Fitness Center.
"AFC funding will help us enhance the family fitness room by building a safer area to preoccupy children while parents work out," said Kevin Ringgold, Wiesbaden Sports and Fitness director.
Covenant funding also means new programs such as the introduction of the Warrior Adventure Quest program by Outdoor Recreation; a program geared toward Soldiers returning from downrange.
"It's designed to slowly bring down adrenaline by giving Soldiers alternative recreation activities where they can stay safe," said Joe Harris, Outdoor Recreation director. "We are looking forward to working with the 1st Armored Division and all other returning units in ensuring that each returning platoon of Soldiers is able to participate in this program. And if it saves just one Soldier's life, it will be worth the effort."