Karen Barton-Gardea, Michelle Paris, Robin Garrett, and Gina Olivas assist Soldiers and their spouses with registration for child care and other Child & Youth Services programs at Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
Karen Barton-Gardea, Michelle Paris, Robin Garrett, and Gina Olivas assist Soldiers and their spouses with registration for child care and other Child & Youth Services programs at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. (Photo Credit: James Brabenec) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT SILL, Oklahoma (July 27, 2021) – With 30 years of experience and know-how, Robin Garrett leads a team of three clerks at Parent Central Services (PCS) here who are ready to assist Soldiers and spouses seeking care for their children.

But Garrett and her team aren’t the first stop for Soldiers moving to Fort Sill. Instead, the internet provides easy access to help them connect with Child & Youth Services (CYS).

Before departing their previous duty station, Soldiers should open an account on MilitaryChildcare.com, which serves U.S. military families in all service branches. Completing this online request care at Fort Sill for their children in any program or facility gets them on a wait list.

CYS facilities that fall under this wait list umbrella are: Tincher and Cooper Child Development centers, the School Age Center, the Youth Center, and Family Child Care homes.

Garrett and her team review wait lists daily. When openings occur, they call parents to verify they still need care for their children and invite them to walk in to PCS to finish the registration paperwork or call 580-442-1098 and make an appointment. She added clerks will ask parents a few questions to ensure they have all necessary paperwork when they come in to register.

“We want Soldiers to feel comfortable knowing their children are well taken care of here,” said Garrett. “We’re going to love them like they are our own children.”

Parent Central Services is in the Welcome Center Bldg. 4700 Mow Way Road. It is open Mondays through Fridays from 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Garrett said with the post in Health Protection Condition A, CYS facilities and programs are reopening to pre-COVID numbers.

Despite this, she cautioned parents that the list for infant care is extremely long, and the two facilities that have infant programs stay full. Garrett said slots for other ages generally open in a reasonable amount of time.

She added effective Sept. 1, 2020, the Army created a priority list for child care on post. The highest priority is for CYS staff members, next is single Soldiers and dual military couples, and the final priority is active-duty Soldiers with full-time working spouses.

Fort Sill maintains a list of credible off-post child care facilities, which must receive a two-star rating from the Oklahoma Department of Human Services. Families who have their children at off-post facilities can apply for the Army Fee Assistance Program if the cost of child care is higher than on post, said Garrett.

In addition to Tincher and Cooper CDCs, which together can accommodate nearly 400 children, the post has three Family Child Care (FCC) homes that can serve up to six children each. Garrett said another four homes are undergoing the certification process and will be operational soon.

Providing care for all children from infant on up, FCCs offer more flexibility that CDCs that close earlier, said Garrett. FCCs may be a good fit for shift workers or drill sergeants.

Kids on Site

Another program that may interest inbound families is Kids on Site. Garrett manages a team of four care givers who provide child care for chapels on Sundays. They also extend this service to military balls, and Army Community Service and unit date nights.

Youth Center status

Garrett said The Fort Sill Youth Center is under repair for water damage incurred during the February cold snap that caused water pipes to burst and flood portions of the facility. The youth center should be ready to open in October. Until then, youth activities are held in the former Garrison CDC at 4123 Bragg Road near Frontier Chapel.

COVID conundrum

In the event the pandemic changes the Health Protection Condition and reduces services on post, Garrett said CYS will remain open as it did through the early part of 2020.

“We continued to provide extensive care for those mission essential personnel who absolutely had to have child care,” she said.

Commanders will sign a form vouching that Soldiers are mission essential and forward to the garrison commander for approval, said Garrett.

To help get the word out on what CYS has to offer Fort Sill families, Garrett also is available to speak on CYS programs and services at unit family readiness group meetings.

“I’m a firm believer in working with the Soldiers,” she said. “I have been working with CYS 40 years, and raised three of my own children through CYS.”