FORT KNOX, Ky. – It’s a situation unlike one Fort Knox has ever faced – now Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation and installation leaders are offering new ways to attract child caregivers.

“We’re struggling right now,” said Child & Youth Services coordinator Rayceil Oggs. “We need time to reassess, and try to get people hired on so that we can provide childcare.”

The Fort Knox Child Development Center is facing heavy staffing shortages. Now, leaders are putting together incentives to recruit new caregivers.
The Fort Knox Child Development Center is facing heavy staffing shortages. Now, leaders are putting together incentives to recruit new caregivers. (Photo Credit: Jenn DeHaan) VIEW ORIGINAL

Oggs said it initially began with noticing how overwhelmed the current staff was feeling. However, it soon became clear it was more than that.

“All of a sudden, we start to look at our statistical data and really looking at everything,” said Oggs, “and that’s when we realized we have a problem.”

The Child Development Center is currently operating just barely above half the amount of staff it normally requires, according to reports.

Oggs said during the pandemic they were fully staffed at first, with Spouses affected by the stop movement holding many of the positions in place. Once it lifted, there was a mass exodus, leaving a large number of vacancies. She also said some key positions opened up because staff members decided to retire earlier than expected.

“It was hurting us in terms of filling all of our childcare spaces,” said Oggs, “because to fill the spaces, you have to have the staff in order to be in ratio and take care of the children.”

Many took notice, according to Oggs, and understood something needed to be done.

“It’s such a big issue that we’re having weekly meetings,” said Oggs, who shared how leaders want to be up front and honest, and inform the community about the situation, while also taking action to recruit new potential employees.

Plans are underway now to incentivize caregiver positions at the CDC.

“They’re looking at a sign-on bonus, then if you stay with us say another six months you’ll get another [one], and then if you stay on a full year you’ll get another,” said Oggs, “but that has not been determined yet.”

While incentive parameters are still coming together for new potential CDC employees, one is already in place for those interested in setting up in-home family child care.

Installation officials have established a $1,000 sign-on bonus after training is complete.

“We have one that’s now in the process, but it’s going to be a while,” said Oggs.

She said the lack of open family child care homes is another major part of the current problem. With the only open one on the installation closing this week and the need for there to be at least 10-15 childcare homes in place, shortage issues are compounded.

“What happens is, when we run into a problem with the CDC, then we can always put Families in [family child care],” said Oggs. “We don’t have that anymore.”

Officials are hoping the incentives and opportunities for employment will be far reaching, according to CDC director Stephanie Parris. Having been on the front line since the staffing issues first started, she said she’s seen what the current employees are going through.

“The staff working every day — they’re just burnt out and tired, but we still say, ‘Yes, we can do it, we can figure it out; let’s get it done,’” said Parris. “Why? To meet the mission. That is the driving force.”

The next job fair is May 20, where in the past the CDC had been able to fill many of its open positions.

“You have two ways of applying,” said Parris: “You can walk through our doors and ask for an application; the other way is through USAJOBS.”

With all she has witnessed the past several months, Parris said the need is greater than ever.

“We’re trying to bring individuals into the program and make sure that we’re providing quality care,” said Parris. “If you know somebody, you have a friend, tell them to come in.”

While Parris said she hopes to have more caregivers employed soon, those who are now working hard each day despite being short-staffed are keeping the CDC going:

“We’re doing all that we can.”