JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas -- –
It’s a momentous time for Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph’s Child Development Program.
The CDP, which supports the Air Force mission by providing full-day care for children between the ages of 6 weeks and 5 years, will soon reach full capacity.
Following a lengthy construction and renovation project which doubled the space of its two facilities, the CDP will accommodate 282 children – 192 at its main building on New B Street West and 90 at its annex on H Street.
“We’re working to get all 20 rooms open at both facilities,” said Sarah Fisher, JBSA-Randolph CDP director. “We will be at 100 percent capacity at the annex Tuesday and at the main center in mid-September.”
Although it required a temporary downsizing of the program, the construction project created the space to meet a vital need, Fisher said.
“Our waiting list was huge,” she said. “Our expanded facilities meet some of that need.”
In addition to fulfilling its facility needs, the CDP is meeting its children’s needs.
“Both facilities are recently accredited with the National Association for the Education of Young Children,” Fisher said. “We received a commended rating in all 10 criteria and were not below a score of 90 in anything.
“I attribute that to our staff’s hard work and dedication to children and also to the support of the Air Force,” she said.
Fisher, who joined the JBSA-Randolph CDP as a management trainee in the Palace Acquire civilian employment program six years ago, said the CDP’s mission is to provide affordable, quality and available child care to the children of active-duty members and Department of Defense civilians.
She believes the CDP, compared with child care facilities in the civilian community, offers a “superior service at a more affordable price.”
“We provide three wonderful home-cooked meals,” Fisher said. “We have a well-trained staff and offer stability. Our leadership supports us 100 percent. We care for the little people of the big people who are fighting wars.”
The CDP also offers spacious rooms with numerous activity centers.
“Our requirement is 35 square feet per child, but we exceed that,” Fisher said. “Depending on the age group, there are 14 to 24 children per room at the main center and eight to 10 per room at the annex.”
Care and instruction is provided by a lead caregiver and two child and youth program assistants in each room of the main building, where 2- to 5-year-olds are served, and the annex, which meets the needs of children ages 6 weeks to 2 years.
At the CDP facilities, instruction is focused on play, Fisher said.
“Play is children’s work,” she said. “It’s how their interests are developed.”
The program’s goals are to foster positive identity and a sense of emotional well-being; enhance social skills; encourage children to think, reason, question and experiment; promote language and literacy development; and build physical development and skills.
Robin Bell, lead caregiver for 3- to 5-year-olds who has been part of the CDP for seven years, said the program’s daily structure helps meet those goals.
At the CDP main building, the day begins with breakfast, followed by a community gathering in each room that allows children to sing songs, recite or sing their ABCs and engage in other group activities.
The children then divide into smaller groups and go outside, weather permitting.
“That is when we concentrate on large motor development,” Bell said. “The children run, have relay races, ride trikes, build sand castles and play games – everything a 3- to 5-year-old likes to do. They go outside twice a day.”
Once inside, children participate in activities that focus on social and cognitive development, Bell said.
“Social development involves learning social skills and how to communicate with their peers,” she said. “For cognitive development, we concentrate on academic learning skills.”
CDP guidelines require both parents be employed full time or full-time students if they wish to enroll their children in the program, with active-duty members receiving first priority, Fisher said. However, the CDP also offers a part-day program for the children of stay-at-home parents.
Parents will soon be able to request day care for their children at CDP facilities through an online process at militarychildcare.com, Fisher said. Currently, there are families on the JBSA-Randolph CDP’s waiting list, but most are in a lower priority category.
“We’re still waiting for our ‘go-live’ date, but families can now set up their profiles on that website,” she said.
Another advantage of the CDP is its fee structure.
Appropriated funds subsidize the program, while parents’ fees only pay non-appropriated-fund staff members, Fisher said.
“That’s why we offer competitive pricing,” she said. “Our fees are based on income, and they range from $58 per week to $145 per week, with a 10 percent multi-child discount.”
The CDP staff of nearly 90 members consists of the director, two assistant directors, two training and curriculum specialists, a T&C assistant, administrative clerks, lead caregivers and child and youth program assistants, as well as contract employees.
“Since 2013 we’ve had what feels like a nonstop hiring process, but we are now winding down,” Fisher said. “However, we still have some openings. We’re looking for qualified staff – people with a love for children and who have experience working with children.”
Bell, who has been working with children for 18 years, said her job supports the Air Force mission.
“There’s so much I like about my job,” she said. “I have an opportunity to take care of other families’ children and watch them develop during the time they’re here.”