JOINT BASE ANDREWS, Md. , April 30, 2020 —
April is the Month of the Military Child, a time when the Department of Defense, the Department of Defense Education Activity, and the military community honor the sacrifices made by military families worldwide, especially the experiences of children.
With the stressors of the COVID-19 pandemic in mind, the child development and youth centers’ staff have been working to make sure to keep both children and staff safe and connected. They are continuing to honor the child and youth services mission while many children are unable to attend the centers.
“We are here for families to help parents focus on their mission, knowing their child is well cared for,” said Anette McLamb, 11th Force Support Squadron child and youth services flight chief. “It’s even more important now; those parents still have to go to work and need even more reassurance we are providing the highest level of quality care we can.”
McLamb said the child and youth program’s mission is to assist DOD military and civilian personnel in balancing the competing demands of both the accomplishment of the DOD mission and family care by managing and delivering a system of available and affordable quality programs and services for eligible children and youth: birth through 18 years of age. They are dedicated to that mission.
The CDCs have added precautions such as cleaning bedding more often, not moving children to different classrooms, and changing work schedules to help keep the children safe while attending programs.
“We’ve taken steps to safeguard the children,” said McLamb. “Putting staff on two-week rotations, screening children throughout the day and not just on arrival. We change out bleach water twice a day versus once a day, and we lower the number of children in each room.”
The child-care providers are trying to keep the children safe and stay connected with them.
“The providers miss the children as much as the children miss the providers and we wanted to connect with them,” said McLamb. “It’s difficult having a child at home while parents are still trying to telework. We've really come up with some innovative things to do, [with the goal to] try and help keep people positive and busy.”
During the past month, Mayra Oceguera, 11th FSS CDC supervisory technician, has been thinking of ways to match the challenges at hand.
“We realized it was going to be longer and more challenging to complete things such as meetings and even just reaching out to the children,” said Oceguera. “This is a stressful time for adults. So you can only imagine how stressful the changes have been for the children. They were used to their routines and seeing their caregivers and being involved in all of these daily activities.
One way Oceguera is combating this is with the child development centers’ Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/AndrewsCDCs. Posting videos to help connect children with their providers through story times, activities and crafts.
“We wanted to provide them with the capability to listen to a story,” said Oceguera. “We've gotten the caregivers to provide activities that the parents can do at home that are quick and simple, but they still offer that learning and developmental support for the children of various ages. And just keeping in touch with the children, you know, let them know we're still here and you know, we're excited and can't wait to have them back.”
One parent likes the way the team is using videos on Facebook to reach out to the children.
“[This] is a great way for the teachers to stay engaged and reach out. It has been quite abrupt for the kids, so it is a positive thing for them to be accessible,” said Karen Sourza, a parent of a child in the CDC. “We have seen two or three of the videos and [my daughter] will say hey that’s my teacher.”
The Month of the Military Child events this year ended slightly differently due to the pandemic.
“[Past] parades were held at each center individually,” said Staff Sgt. Krista Cordora-Bradley, president of the Joint Base Andrews Parent Advisory Board. “But seeing as how [many children] are on lockdown we are going to do a parade for the whole base, just to celebrate all of them.”
Starting next month, the child and youth program will be providing something new for the Joint Base Andrews children via a free virtual service.
“They will be able to take a cooking class with a certified chef free of charge,” said McLamb. “We are going to offer Zumba classes and we’re going to have an art class where we are going to provide you the resources. You just come by and pick them up and bring them home and do it with an art teacher. We will even have a science teacher teaching science, technology, engineering and math activities.”
The efforts of the 11th FSS Child and Youth programs have not gone unnoticed by the parents and JBA community.
“Thank you to the director and center’s staff,” said Sourza. “It is not easy for everyone, but the fact they are still getting up and going to work and doing the best that they can for the kids has been really nice to see and heartwarming.”