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Child-care test program provides peace of mind

By Staff Sgt. C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (March 11, 2003) -- Airmen who use base child-care facilities no longer need to take a day off of work when their children are too sick to stay with others.

A test program began recently at 25 Air Force installations designating a special-care provider for children who are mildly ill -- children who would, under Air Force rules, not be allowed to stay in base child-care facilities with healthy children.

"In the past, parents have had to either take leave or find another care setting and pay additional costs when their children had a mild illness," said Beverly Houston, family member program specialist in the Air Force services directorate at the Pentagon. "This program will allow the parent to still perform their military duty and avoid the cost of additional child-care."

Under the program, a private-care provider at each base was selected by the family child-care panel and specially trained to deal with mildly ill children. Additionally, during the selection process, the Air Force looked first to those providers who already had special skills.

"We looked for people who may be a registered nurse or another specialized provider," Houston said.

When children who are already in base child-care become sick, their parents pick them up and take them to the special-care provider until they are well enough to be in their regular child-care setting again.

Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., is one of the first Air Force installations to begin the program. Parents who took advantage of it were happy with the care and convenience provided.

"I am glad I could bring my child," said Staff Sgt. Mindy Sarratt, one of the first users of the program at Keesler AFB. "The mildly ill care provider is great with my children and makes me feel comfortable leaving them in her care."

Col. Lyndsay Stauffer, a first time user of the Keesler program, had similar compliments.

"This brings me peace of mind," Stauffer said.

If the program proves successful during the five-month test phase and additional funding is approved, Air Force services will expand the program to all installations where it is needed.

The other test bases for the program include Andrews AFB, Md.; Bolling AFB, D.C.; Edwards AFB, Calif.; Elmendorf AFB, Alaska; Hickam AFB, Hawaii; Hulburt Field, Fla. (also serving Eglin AFB, Fla.); Kadena Air Base, Japan; Kirtland AFB, N.M.; Lackland AFB, Texas; Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England; Langley AFB, Va.; Little Rock AFB, Ark.; MacDill AFB, Fla.; McChord AFB, Wash.; McGuire AFB, N.J.; Misawa AB, Japan; Nellis AFB, Nev.; Peterson AFB, Colo.; Ramstein AB, Germany; Scott AFB, Ill.; Tinker AFB, Okla.; Travis AFB, Calif.; Vandenberg AFB, Calif.; and Yokota AB, Japan.