FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Capt. Cherby Allen, battalion logistics officer for Task Force Marshall, said she remembers the long hours she worked in 2008 as a company executive officer for the 3rd Battalion, 60th Infantry Regiment.

As a single parent, the mobilized Reserve Soldier said it was important that she find child care that accommodated her busy schedule. Fort Jackson's Child, Youth and School Services' extended care program provided that care.

"I kind of knew about the extended services from when I was here in 2008," said Allen, whose now 5-year-old son still uses the services at Scales Child Development Center. "Sometimes I wouldn't get home until after 6. They even provided weekend and overnight services if I needed it."

What Allen didn't know is that just a year earlier, in 2007, those services may not have been available for free.

There are two CDCs on post. Scales is open Monday-Friday, 4:30 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday, 5 a.m. to 6 p.m. The Hood Street Center, which provides hourly care, is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and the first and third Friday of each month, 6-11 p.m. Two additional centers are scheduled to open in July.

The Child Development Homes provide child care in a home setting by paid staff members. The homes operate at various hours and can accommodate Soldier's children from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m.

The extended care services, which are available at the Scales CDC, some of the post's Child Development Homes and even through some of the Family Child Care providers, are but one of the numerous quality-of-life programs made possible through funding from the Army Family Covenant. Already, the on-post child care center fees include up to 12 hours each day in services. The extended care is for Soldiers whose children need care beyond that.

According to Rose Edmond, CYSS chief, Allen is one of many single or dual military families who uses the services. In December alone, she said, more than 1,200 children used the extended-care programs, with some children using the care multiple times. That translates to about $15,000 in care, she said. The extended care is provided Monday through Saturday, and Sunday for National Guard and Reserve Soldiers. The care is free for those Soldiers who are deployed or whose mission requirements make the care necessary. Soldiers must get a memorandum signed by the unit commander in order to receive the free care, Edmond said.

Though the services are not new, Edmond said, the Army Family Covenant makes it possible to now offer them for free.

"Soldiers used to have to pay for that," she said.

A recent addition to the extended care services provides dinner for teens at the Youth Services Center whose parents' mission requirements have them being picked up after normal duty hours.

Though Allen's schedule is a bit less hectic than her time with 3-60th, there are times when her son has to stay at Scales later than normal. Those times she has to pick him up closer to the center's 7 p.m. closing time, he has already eaten dinner.

"That's a big help for me, because the last thing I want to do is cook dinner," she said.
All of that is at no extra cost to her.

"It's a blessing, really it is, to not have to pay."

For more information, and for rules about who qualifies for free extended care services, call 751-4865/4824.