Military child care takes top spots in national report

by Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department’s stateside military child care system took first place in the categories of quality oversight and standards for a second time as part of a national child care advocacy group’s report, a senior official said.

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies recently examined child care practices in 50 states and the District of Columbia for its most-current report and awarded the Defense Department the highest marks for quality for child care oversight and standards, Barbara Thompson, director of the Pentagon’s Office of Family Policy, Children and Youth, told Pentagon Channel and American Forces Information Service reporters.

The association twice has reported on child care licensing standards to assess their quality of oversight and standards, Ms. Thompson said.

The Defense Department also earned the same honors in the group’s 2007 report, she said.

“This is the second time that we were No. 1 in both oversight and standards,” Ms. Thompson said. “No other state has ever reached that, so we’re very, very proud of this achievement.”

Two-time recognition by the association reinforces the fact that military families can rest assured the Defense Department provides top-quality child care, Ms. Thompson said.

“I think it gives you the satisfaction and the peace of mind that the Department of Defense is very committed to quality and that children who are in our child-development system receive very high quality care across their development,” she said.

Military families that enroll their children in Defense Department-sponsored child care facilities should know “that your child is safe and is in a learning environment,” Ms. Thompson said. Such knowledge, she added, helps military members focus on their jobs.

Quality child care is important, Ms. Thompson said, because the key formative development years for children takes place between ages 1 through 5.

“When we do the right mix of quality care-giving, learning activities, opportunities for physical play … these children are thriving,” she said.

Such an environment “really does set the tone for their future in elementary school and further on,” Ms. Thompson said.

Care-givers employed at Defense Department-sponsored child care facilities receive stringent training and are required to meet the highest standards, Ms. Thompson said.

“We lead the way in the country of setting the standards and oversight of what constitutes a good early childhood program,” she said.