Army child care expands programs to meet community needs

by Rick Scavetta,
U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern

Child care for Ingrid Duty often meant hectic mornings driving more than 30 miles before work to drop off her two daughters at separate care centers.

Mrs. Duty, a government civilian, spent more than 45 minutes fighting congested autobahn traffic, driving from her Mehlingen home across town to Landstuhl, then back into Kaiserslautern. But that’s changed, thanks to a new school age services at Sembach Elementary School – one of a few Army child care programs in Kaiserslautern growing to meet community demands.

On Oct. 14, Lt. Col. Kevin Hutchison, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern, cut a ceremonial ribbon officially opening the Sembach program center. Now, at Sembach, Mrs. Duty’s daughters are both just four miles from home.

 “When this came up, it was a blessing,” she said. “This is awesome.”

Mrs. Duty has more time for herself, her girls and her husband, a Soldier who commutes 50 miles north to Wiesbaden, she said.

“It’s a whole lot better now. I come and pick my daughters up and they don’t want to leave,” she said. “It’s great, they love it.”

Offering child care at Sembach is among several ways the garrison’s Child, Youth and School Services program is working to meet the demands of a growing community, said Elena Smeltz, acting CYSS coordinator.

“The community here has been growing faster than the infrastructure, so child care is a big issue in the community,” Ms. Smeltz said.

In Landstuhl, finishing touches are underway on a child development center, which will create more space for children in kindergarten and younger. The CDC already established at Landstuhl provides care for up to 126 children in that age group.
“An additional CDC was important because there was great demand,” Ms. Smeltz said.

Set to open in January, the new center will allow another 76 children, from infants to kindergarten, to receive care. The project moved faster than originally planned due to the garrison’s commitment to the Army Family Covenant, an Army-wide program that includes a guarantee of quality CYS support to Soldiers and their families, she said.

Roughly, 920 Soldiers have children enrolled in CYS. But in Kaiserslautern’s joint service community, Army CYS also serves more than 675 children of Air Force personnel and roughly 20 children from Navy and Marine families. Serving so many, CYS works with parents to find space in child care programs often near capacity.

At Kleber Kaserne, CYS recently made space for 17 more CDC children. By mid-2011, they hope to expand Kleber’s capacity, once minor construction is undertaken.

On Oct. 1, USAGK officially assumed oversight of the former air base, now known as Sembach Kaserne. When school started on Aug. 30, the Army garrison began offering onsite child care, before and after school, to Sembach students.  

“We have two rooms inside the elementary school that we have converted into our school age program,” Ms. Smeltz said. “So, the children simply have to walk from their classrooms down to ours.”

The new program is also more convenient for parents who, in the past, would often drive across Kaiserslautern to pick up their kids after work.

It was a relief for Lt. Col. Roy Manauis, a father of two whose family faced its share of child care challenges over the past two years. Now, both children go to the Sembach center. Knowing his children are cared for eases his mind, he said.
“That’s imperative that Soldiers and their families are looked after,” Colonel Manauis said. “This is a great example of the Army doing that.”

For more information on Kaiserslautern Child, Youth & School Services, call 0631-3406-4516 or visit their Web site at