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BENEFITS–Report: Military Maintains Model Child Care System



Women’s Law Center Suggests Civilians Follow Its Example

The U.S. military is more than just the best-trained and best-equipped fighting force in the world, according to a recent report. Apparently, they’re pretty good with the kids.

The National Women’s Law Center recognized the U.S. Armed Forces as having the best child care service of any organization in the country. The nonprofit organization specializing in the advancement and protection of women’s legal rights, suggested the civilian world could learn a thing or two from the military.

“Overall, we found the military child care system is a model for the nation and there are several lessons that could be applied on the civilian side that could improve care nationwide. One of the most important things was the military went about it in a systemic way,” said Nancy Duff Campbell, NWLC co-president and co-author of the report “Be All That We Can Be: Lessons From the Military for Improving our Nation’s Child Care System.”

The report highlighted six lessons to be learned from the military: the ability and willingness to improve child care, recognizing the need for quality child care, establishing quality standards, offering child care subsidies to parents, continual assessment of needs and committing adequate resources.

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– Law Center Studies Programs With Merit

The NWLC doesn’t regularly write reports or make recommendations, but if a little-known program would benefit society the organization will study it, Campbell said.

“We thought that if we took an in-depth look at what the military was doing we could one, document if it was true they really had this model system and two, try to see what lessons we could glean from what they had done and apply them in the civilian context,” she said.

Karen Whitman, the program manager for child care at Naval Air Station North Island, said center staff members are continually trained to improve and maintain job quality. Not only is Whitman the top child care administrator on the base, she also runs the 13 child development centers in the Navy’s Southwest region. The armed forces regionalized child care centers 18 months ago, she said.

“We have a training requirement where they (employees) have to complete 13 modules in the first 18 months (of employment),” she said. “Those modules are specific to certain areas; child abuse, safety, food nutrition, age appropriate practices. They also have to have four hours a month of specialized training regarding child care practices.”

An employee’s pay is comparative to the number of completed modules, Whitman said.

– Salary System An Incentive For Training

“To tie care-givers’ salary to their level of training creates an incentive to train,” said Polly Elam, child development program administrator with Navy Region Southwest. In the past, child care staffers would plan programs for the children without thought to the developmental level of the child, she said. As a result of the inappropriate activity, the child would “balk at it” and become secluded.

Elam, a child care employee with the Navy for 27 years, said the increased funding that provides the training is the real difference.

“In an all-voluntary department of defense, in order to hold high-quality service members, we need to care for the families and provide support,” she said.

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