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1 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A Fort Rucker Child Development Center employee intakes children at the facility recently. (Photo Credit: Photo by Kristina DeLuca) VIEW ORIGINAL
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2 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A Fort Rucker youth works on an art project while at the CDC. (Photo Credit: Photo by Kristina DeLuca) VIEW ORIGINAL
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3 / 3 Show Caption + Hide Caption – A Fort Rucker CDC caregiver spends time with a child staying at the facility. (Photo Credit: Photo by Kristina DeLuca) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Taking care of and developing the youth of Fort Rucker while their parents serve the country is a challenging mission even under normal circumstances. Add to it the COVID-19 pandemic, and the pressure levels amp up immeasurably.

But the people at CYS came through with flying colors, according to Toni Hampton, Fort Rucker CYS coordinator.

“The past year has been difficult for all of Fort Rucker, and CYS was not immune to the challenges that COVID-19 presented,” she said. “Since the pandemic began, neither the child development center nor the school age center closed its doors to customers. The CYS team has adapted to ever-changing guidance by creating relevant and timely solutions to the problems we have faced.”

Hampton said she’s proud of the entire CYS staff, whose members responded to the increased challenge with their usual professionalism, dedication and creativity.

“The secret to our employees’ success has been resiliency, professionalism, teamwork and their commitment to the families of Fort Rucker,” Hampton said. “The people at Fort Rucker should rest easy knowing their children are in good hands when they’re in CYS programs.

“Our child development center remains the only nationally accredited program (accredited by The National Association for the Education of Young Children) within 50 miles of Fort Rucker through 2025,” she continued. “The school age center is also the only accredited program in the area, and they are currently working towards re-accreditation through the Council on Accreditation.”

That secret is still being put to the test by the pandemic, bringing about the need to make a number of changes in the way CYS’ mission is carried out, Hampton said. The staff have rearranged learning environments to accommodate for smaller group sizes, implemented additional cleaning and sanitizing procedures, adapted illness control policies to lower the risk of transmission, moved staff between the various CYS programs to cover staffing shortages because of illnesses or exposure, and developed alternative ways to communicate with parents.

“Every aspect of our staff's and our children's days are affected by the many changes that have occurred,” she added.

“In addition, the school age center provided full day care during regular school hours while area schools were doing virtual learning,” Hampton said. “This entailed rearranging learning areas to provide space for virtual learning environments, arranging for all students to access CYS Wi-Fi and ensuring all students were on-line at the specified class times.”

The CYS staff got a big assist from local post leadership, as well, Hampton added.

“Leadership did a great job from the start of the crisis by lowering our capacity to life, health and safety patrons only,” she said. “This allowed the CYS Team to make necessary adjustments and begin to implement the mitigation plan. In addition, Lyster Army Health Clinic has been a great source of support, providing guidance on methods to decrease transmission, recommendations for children's illness exclusion measures, and guidance on quarantine and isolation requirements.”

In June, CYS began expanding its services back towards more normal levels by increasing its capacity at the CDC and SAC. “Any patron that qualifies to use CYS facilities can now enroll into the CDC and SAC programs – both programs have available childcare spaces. In addition, we have opened the youth center back to normal operating hours for our middle school youth and teens, and youth sports and fitness has opened its youth fitness center and has begun to offer sports clinics,” Hampton said.

People with questions regarding registration or enrollment can call parent central services at 334-255-9638.

Although capacity levels have increased closer to the norm, the pandemic continues and CYS staff members are handling it in the best way they can with the safety and wellbeing of their young charges in the forefront of each of their minds, she added.

But more change is on the way – good change.

“An important part of the CYS program is nutrition. While we already provide healthy meals and snacks at the CDC, much of the kitchen equipment and the design of the kitchen is old,” Hampton said. “In order to continue to provide nutritious meals and allow for a more efficient work area for the kitchen staff, the CDC kitchen will begin being renovated in February. This will include a space redesign and new equipment, including sinks, dish washer, ovens, cooler and more.

“The work will be self-contained and will not affect our ability to provide child care,” she added. “During this time, food will be prepared in the youth center kitchen and transported to the CDC. The CDC kitchen team will continue to follow the standard menus, and will be careful to maintain sanitation and food temperature requirements.”

While many of the challenges of 2020 continue into 2021, the CYS staff remains committed to the Soldiers and family members of Fort Rucker.

“CYS plans to continue providing quality programs while also putting measures in place to continue to lower the chance of transmission among our youth,” Hampton said. “We at CYS take great pride in taking care of the children of our nation’s Soldiers – we are truly grateful for the chance to serve those who serve our nation.”

WHAT YOU GET FOR YOUR CHILD CARE DOLLAR

Your CDC fees provide a safe and secure learning environment for your child.

* Staff are trained to protect, nurture and teach

* Activities promote early learning and school readiness

* Facilities have:

** Regular fire, safety, health and program inspections;

** Security surveillance equipment to monitor activities; and

** Force protection safeguards

Your CDC fees go further because the Army covers much of the cost.

* You pay your share and the Army funds the difference

* Fee discounts are available when more than one child enrolls in CYS programs

* Off-post centers usually charge more for infants, supplies, food and field trips

Your CDC fees buy:

* 220-240 hours of full-day care each month;

* 10-12 hours a day Mondays-Fridays, typically less than $2 an hour;

* 44 nutritious meals and to 22 snacks;

* Field trips and skills development; and

* Two weeks of “child care leave” every year.

Your CDC fees help make the military lifestyle a little easier.

* Operating hours at convenient locations are geared to the duty day.

* Single facilities offer one-stop care for ages 6 weeks to 5 years.

* Hourly care is available for respite and wellbeing.

* Services and standards are predictable wherever you’re stationed.

CDC fees are a great value because your child receives the best care.

* Army centers are inspected more frequently than those licensed off post.

* Most Army centers are nationally accredited.

* Military child care is cited as a “model for the nation” by Congress and national experts.

For more information, visit https://rucker.armymwr.com/.

* Information provided by the Fort Rucker Directorate of Family, and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.