FORT LEONARD WOOD, Mo. — Fort Leonard Wood’s Child Development Center 408 demonstrated the quality of their care earlier this year when they exceeded the Army standard while applying for reaccreditation of their program.
During an assessment from the National Association for the Education of Young Children, or NAEYC, the CDC 408 received an overall score of 97 percent — the standard is 80 percent.
One of the ways the Army takes care of its people is by providing the best possible child care, said Emily Turner CDC 408 director. Turner said her goal is for military families to go to work every day and not have to worry about their children.
“That’s what we are doing, we are taking care of their children so they don’t have to stress at work because their child is in a safe environment and getting top-notch care,” Turner said. “The passing grade is an 80 percent, so we definitely exceeded that standard and it’s a big accomplishment. To see all the staff pull together and all the teamwork, they really did a lot to make this happen. It was definitely very rewarding.”
Every Child Development Center in the Army is required to have national accreditation — with reaccreditation occurring every five years — and meeting these standards of child care takes determination and hard work, said Tamara Smith, Child Youth Services coordinator.
“It is a very high standard,” Smith said. “It’s not just something the manager can put together real quick; it is a yearlong effort. Every classroom is involved — every classroom teacher is involved — and the children are involved, too, because they are showing us if what we are doing is meeting the mark. It takes a team effort for it to be completed.”
Lara Odle, a Child Youth Services training specialist, called the reaccreditation process “detailed.”
“We have to put together classroom portfolios for each age group and an overall program portfolio,” Odle said. “The staff also have to go through many hours of training and be up to date on their first aid and CPR certificates.”
Odle also said the classrooms are held to very strict safety standards.
“Our room environments have to meet the standards for cleanliness with sanitation issues such as diaper changing and meal service,” she said. “We also have to make sure the toys the children are playing with are appropriate and safe.”
A large part of the process involves an extensive onsite evaluation, Turner added.
“They look to make sure all of our classrooms have the required materials and that our programming in the classroom is age appropriate for the children,” Turner said. “They focus on the relationships between the staff and the children as well. The evaluators pay close attention to how teachers connect with children through empathy and communication that fosters positive engagement.”
Odle said the children enrolled in CYS here are receiving the best care possible.
“They are getting the education that they need, they are in a safe place every day, and they have teachers that are well educated and caring,” Odle said.
Being able to earn such a high score during NAEYC reaccreditation says a lot about Turner and the whole team at CDC 408, Odle said.
“We have put a lot into this,” she said. “Our staff is very well trained. They have a lot of education and we have gone above and beyond with meeting safety and curriculum standards. It’s really a mark of our quality and shows parents that this is a quality child care program.”