By 1st Lt. Jason Gabrick
50th Space Wing Public Affairs
Schriever Airman and Family Services wants to emphasize the multiple approaches in place to assure the safety of children at the Child Development Center here.
Procedures are in place for staff training, observation and outlets for parents and staff members to address concerns.
“Every new employee is provided a minimum of 21 hours of training before they go into a classroom and work with children,” said Karen MacKenzie, Schriever CDC training and curriculum specialist. “Within the first six months of employment, staff are also observed once a month on accountability, supervision, safety, health, interactions and development, positive guidance, and communication with families and coworkers, among other things.”
In addition to internal training and observation, background checks are mandatory for all employees. New staff members are also required to complete a competency based training program within 18 months of being hired. The training consists of 13 child development modules, which introduce core knowledge and skills staff need in order to provide high quality care for children.
“During this time, I observe staff working with children, model appropriate practices and provide feedback and support,” said MacKenzie. “Staff are also required to complete two child abuse modules and pediatric first aid and CPR training within their first six months.”
Training and observation doesn’t end upon initial hire, however. Annual training and routine observation are common practice at the CDC. MacKenzie routinely observes staff in the classroom and then meets with them to discuss her observations. During that time, she provides additional training and feedback based on her observations. She also has the option to conduct training on a topic a specific staff member has requested.
“Staff are required to have a minimum of 24 hours of training each year,” said MacKenzie.
“I want to share a little bit about our system,” said Mary Barkley, 50th Force Support Squadron Airman and Family Services flight chief. “It’s a great system but, as I tell parents, we cannot eliminate all risk. But, when there’s a concern, we take it very seriously and make sure the appropriate action is taken.”
The staff constantly monitors the behavior of child care professionals and conduct in the classrooms. Airman and Family Services as well as CDC administrators are required by Air Force Instruction to monitor behavior using a live closed-circuit television system.
“While we’re monitoring, staff brings anything that looks suspicious or concerning to management and they have the ability to view it,” said Barkley. “If there’s a concern, we immediately contact the appropriate agencies, who then decide whether an investigation may be necessary based on very specific Air Force policy and guidance.”
If an employee or parent files a complaint, Airman and Family Services looks to the Air Force Personnel Center for guidance on handling the specific concern to ensure that proper procedures are followed.
“The process differs slightly depending on the type of complaint it is,” said Barkley. “It depends on whether or not the complaint is a suspected procedural issue or a suspected abuse case. We make that distinction and then decide which agency to report the incident to.”
Every incident that occurs at the CDC, whether it warrants an investigation or not, is documented, said Barkley.
“If the concern turns out to be a guidance issue, we conduct retraining, take possible disciplinary action and increase observation,” said Barkley. “If abuse is suspected, we contact family advocacy immediately. And, if an investigation occurs as a result, all staff members allegedly involved are immediately removed from the facility and are unable to work in other facilities with children during the course of the investigation.”
The decision of whether or not a claim is substantiated or unsubstantiated is up to the investigative entity. Their decision determines if action is taken.
“Just like the military, we have multiple levels of discipline available to us in the event that a staff member needs to be corrected,” said Barkley.
If parents or staff members have concerns, Jessica Parks, Schriever Child Development Center director, wants to ensure they understand what avenues are available.
“First, parents always have the right to voice their concern when it comes to the care of their children,” said Parks. “My door is always open and I will always listen to what parents have to say and work my hardest to ensure their concerns are addressed with the staff, and they are resolved. It is important that they are comfortable leaving their ‘Little Airmen’ in our program while they are at work, and I will always do what I can to ensure quality care is being provided to them.”
Airman and Family Services wants parents to feel comfortable voicing their concerns, but they also want to make sure concerns are voiced at the appropriate level. Parents are encouraged to talk directly with the care-giving staff assigned to the classroom their children are in, the training and curriculum specialist or the director of the CDC. If parents still feel they’re not receiving appropriate action, they can utilize the Interactive Customer Evaluation program, or ICE.
“ICE is how [force support squadrons] at all Department of Defense bases handle compliments and complaints in all of our facilities,” said Steven Sarandos, 50 FSS ICE site manager, “Customers can fill out a physical comment card and place it in a box at the front desk at all of our locations, or they can [comment online].”
Individuals providing feedback through the ICE program have the option of remaining anonymous. To provide feedback via ICE, visit http://ice.disa.mil.