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JBSA News
NEWS | April 8, 2010

Child development program best in Air Force

By Mike Joseph 502nd Air Base Wing OL-A Public Affairs

The Lackland child development program was named best in the Air Force for the second year in a row.

"It was a pleasant surprise," said Deb Willey, 802nd Force Support Squadron, Airman and Family Services flight chief. "There are a lot of good programs in the Air Force and to be recognized at that level, it was a nice validation of the work I knew (the staff) was already doing.

"(The entire staff) was pleased to be recognized. It speaks highly for the quality of programs we offer."

The Lackland child development program is one of the largest in the Air Force. The Lackland, Kelly Field and Gateway Child Development Centers care for more than 550 children daily, supported by a staff of 200.

Each center offers a different level of service. Kelly Field CDC cares for infants to 5 year olds; Lackland CDC cares for children, ages 3-5 and runs an after school program for children enrolled in 4-year-old and pre-kindergarten classes at Lackland Elementary School; and Gateway CDC cares for infants to 5 year olds and also serves special needs children.

The centers also support various chapel and deployment programs along with other base events by providing child care workers.

"We're there to support Lackland," Ms. Willey said.

Ms. Willey said three areas stood out during the award time period (October 2008 through September 2009): quality of care, parental involvement and the parent advisory board, and accreditation by the National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Dawn Garcia, Kelly Field CDC manager, also was surprised about the program winning again.

"We were shocked," Ms. Garcia said. "We didn't know we'd repeat but we knew the quality (of care) was there. It's always an honor because (repeating) doesn't happen very often."

Ms. Willey and Ms. Garcia both said the accreditation process was a huge undertaking. The three CDCs were evaluated at the same time, which Ms. Willey described as "pretty traumatic for all involved." Ms. Garcia added the successful completion showed "our higher quality of child development at Lackland."

Lt. Col. Joel Jones, 802nd FSS commander, said parental involvement is a key component that sets the program apart from other bases along with the quality of service and care provided by the staff.

He said visitors to the centers recognize those elements immediately.

"The quality of child care, programs and staff is noticeable from the time you walk in the door," Colonel Jones said. "The input the parents have is really special, and the children and parents are happy."

He added the program plays a critical role in mission success because Airmen, whether home stationed or deployed, know their children have been placed in "a top notch program."

"As a commander, to know the quality of care is high and (that the children) are being taken care of is a real comfort (to the Airmen) and for me," Colonel Jones said.