GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
The classroom door swings open, but the children already occupying the room don’t notice. At 6 a.m. they are too deep in the everyday life of 2-year-olds to notice one more child joining the room.
Some children are digging holes to the center of the Earth, while others are setting up for a prominent tea party. Still others are dozing off in the corner, not to be disturbed.
Tech. Sgt. Dianna Karas, 17th Training Wing commanders protocol NCO in charge, quickly leaves a kiss on the forehead of her child who is trotting off into the wild blue yonder of the Child Development Center at Goodfellow.
The CDC offers convenience to Goodfellow parents, safety to over 118 children, and education to civilian employees.
Base members that use the CDC appreciate its convenience and close proximity to their work.
“It’s really nice to have it on base,” said Karas, who has been using the CDC for over two years. “For me-- and with my children in the baby room-- I go during lunch to see them when I am able. And just knowing they are literally two minutes down the street, it’s really comforting.”
For mothers especially, the ability to come in throughout the day can be a necessity.
“We also have a lot of mothers that breastfeed their children,” said CDC Director, Dr. Josephine Roberson. “Being close makes it easier for them to stop by during the day.”
With the CDC’s open door policy, parents can come in on a moment’s notice.
“You have the base housing and then the CDC, so it’s pretty convenient,” said U.S Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Eric Cox, 312 Training Squadron instructor. “There have been a couple times where my child has gotten sick or hurt, and it takes two minutes to get to the facility.”
In addition to the CDC being conveniently located on base, the facility offers additional security measures for consistent safety for the children.
“Parents need to have a calming feeling that their child is safe,” Roberson said.
“And here, they know their children are safe. The staff go through an extensive background check before they even come onboard. And they are not allowed to be with the children alone unless they have a favorable background check.”
Pre-employment background checks at any military child care facility are enforced on an Air Force wide level.
“You know the facility is going to be at a certain standard,” said Cox, who has used military child care services around the world in addition to Goodfellow. “Also, the teachers are more vetted than out in town.”
Furthermore, Karas highlights additional safety features throughout the 10 rooms, which children are divided into based on age.
“The fact that the center has cameras and multiple employees in the rooms gives me peace of mind,” said Karas. “And the director, she’s really good about taking care of any issues or concerns I may have. It’s nice knowing you can talk to her and she will address those concerns.”
Moreover, the CDC is accredited through the National Association for the Education of Young Children, follows Air Force guidelines and standards and is inspected by public health once a month. Parents and children also have access to a Military and Family Life Consultant, a licensed clinical provider who can assist with issues, such as family issues and the stress on a child during deployments or PCSing.
“I can’t compare to not being in the military and being a mother,” said Karas. “But being in the military with children, it can be difficult to juggle everything, with recalls, TDYs and deployments.”
Having child care available every day through the normal and the stressful is needed to allow the mission to be completed.
“Not having a child care offered on base, especially for the single parents, could make it difficult for parents to come into work,” said Cox. “If it’s difficult to come into work, then it impacts the mission.”
With extra in-house security at the CDC, off base child care may be less desirable for some parents with children ranging in ages six weeks to five years or kindergarten ready.
“Just thinking about my children off base scares me because I want them as close to me as possible,” said Karas, her hands stretching across her chest as if pulling a child inward for a hug. “Also, there’s the idea that if anything were to happen, or if the base were to get locked down, I couldn’t get off base to my children. Just knowing they are on base is comforting.”
In addition to the convenience and safety the CDC offers, it also provides educational advancement for its employees.
“The Air Force has professional development requirements for the new staff here,” said Roberson. “There are 15 modules that have to be completed within an 18 month period. Everyone has to do these modules.”
While the module training may be long, it can be used for more than just workplace development.
Although the modules are mandatory for the staff, Roberson said the professional development trainings can also be accredited for college credit with the opportunity to earn an associate’s degree.
Even parents are aware of the professional development trainings the staff maintains.
“The employees have a lot of trainings that they have to keep up with constantly,” said Karas.
With all these benefits, children can continue building the world’s tallest tower and dive to the deepest parts of the ocean without an inconvenience to their parents, worrying about their safety and have well educated staff looking out for them.