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Army Officials Warn Child Programs May Receive Cuts

Artist Edward Codina leads the Heidelberg Middle School sixth-grade class in a watercolor techniques lesson as part of the worldwide 2012 U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Arts and Crafts. (Photo Credit: Heidelberg Middle School)
Artist Edward Codina leads the Heidelberg Middle School sixth-grade class in a watercolor techniques lesson as part of the worldwide 2012 U.S. Army Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Arts and Crafts. (Photo Credit: Heidelberg Middle School)

Army families who use some child and youth services programs may see higher fees or cuts in the coming months, officials said Monday.

"It's all about participating," said Cherri Verschraegen, chief of child, youth and school services for the Army. "We have to get that bang for the buck."

Service officials in September announced long-anticipated cuts to family programs, but said many child and youth service programs, such as daycare centers, would be protected.

Even so, some subsidized efforts such as Skies Unlimited and Edge, which offer sports, summer camps, music classes and gymnastics programs, must become self-sustaining if they want to stay open, Verschraegen told Military.com.

"What we changed on Skies this year, because Skies is not one of the core missions, is that it's got to at least make an effort to make money, to break even," she said.

The decision to cut or maintain individual family programs is made at the garrison level, based on guidance from Army Installation Management Command. Verschraegen said officials worked with commanders at each garrison to go over which programs they plan to keep -- and which they plan to cut.

Verschraegen spoke about CYS programs at the annual Association of the United States Army conference in Washington, D.C.

Family program cuts were scheduled to start with the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, Army officials said in September. Verschraegen said Skies and Edge programs at rural bases such as Fort Irwin, California, and Fort Wainwright, Alaska, will continue to receive funding regardless of whether they can self-sustain.

"In areas where it's remote and isolated, those programs are usually so small that they [are] never going to make money," she said. "So we give those money to operate because it's the only game in town."

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

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Army Family and Spouse Budget