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Some Child Care Still on Hold Despite Hiring Freeze Waiver

Children enjoy an activity with Strong Beginnings class leader, Carolyn Simms, at the Hainerberg School Age Center. (Karl Weisel/Wiesbaden Family and MWR Marketing)
Children enjoy an activity with Strong Beginnings class leader, Carolyn Simms, at the Hainerberg School Age Center. (Karl Weisel/Wiesbaden Family and MWR Marketing)

Officials at two Army bases still plan to temporarily suspend some day care programs despite permission from the Defense Department to hire workers because they cannot fill the positions fast enough to avoid the shutdowns, they said.

"Hiring child care professionals is a multistep process to perform the necessary background, safety and health checks required for individuals taking care of our community's children," Jacob Corbin, a spokesman for U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany, said in an email.

"As soon as we have identified a timeline to bring our part-time care services back online, we will be letting our community know," he said.

Similarly, officials at Fort Knox, Kentucky, said in a statement, "Selections to fill vacant positions have already been made in many cases, but background checks and pre-employment requirements must still be carried out prior to working at the Child Development Center."

The statement continues, "It is therefore too early to know at this time when the full range of child care programs will resume, but it will be as soon as staffing levels allow for all associated services to be performed at the proper standards."

Permission to hire child care workers at Wiesbaden and Fort Knox was granted Feb. 22 by Robert Speer, acting U.S. Army secretary, according to a document obtained by Military.com. About 60 Child and Youth Services hires were cleared for Fort Knox, while Wiesbaden requested and received permission to hire about 20 new workers.

Officials at Fort Knox and Wiesbaden announced this month that some child care programs would be temporarily shuttered due to staffing shortages caused by a federal hiring freeze ordered by President Donald Trump on Jan. 23.

Wiesbaden announced Feb. 21 it will temporarily cease operations of part-day programs at child development centers (CDCs) effective March 1. Fort Knox announced Feb. 17 it will temporarily end its hourly care program, part-day programs and new CDC enrollment effective Feb. 27.

Although the Pentagon said Feb. 1 that child care workers are among 16 categories of employees exempt from the hiring freeze, base officials are still required to receive permission from the secretary of the Army to hire against those "critical to hire" positions, an Army Installation Management Command spokesman said.

An Army spokesman at the Pentagon announced Feb. 22, "Corrective actions have been taken to ensure care continues without interruption," but hiring for child care positions is a long process.

"Folks need to be CPR trained, have all of those correct medical certificates and vetted -- well-vetted -- before we let them take care of our kids," said Nate Allen, an IMCOM spokesman. "Not just anyone can step into a position like that.”

Allen said IMCOM officials expect all child care worker exemption requests for the Army's 230 child care locations worldwide to be submitted by Feb. 24. As of Jan. 17, the Army's Child and Youth Services program had 12,000 positions systemwide with 2,657 vacancies.

Officials with the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy said they do not anticipate interruptions to their child care programs due to the hiring freeze.

"The Marine Corps is carefully monitoring the adverse effects of the civilian hiring freeze on operational and family readiness," Heather Hagan, a Marine Corps spokesperson said in a statement. "To date, we've been able to mitigate these effects by carefully prioritizing critical vacancies and requesting selective exemptions via the Secretary of the Navy. We'll continue to track the effects of the freeze and work to mitigate adverse impacts."

-- Amy Bushatz can be reached at amy.bushatz@military.com.

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Headlines Army Family and Spouse Kids and Baby Department of Defense Amy Bushatz

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