A youngster uses the sink in an Army day care center in this undated U.S. Army photo.

The U.S. Army has provided care for children and youth since 1980, through the years growing into a nationally acclaimed model for quality childcare while supporting Soldier and Family readiness. Child and Youth Services, a program of the Installation Management Command’s G9 Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation division, will celebrate its 40th birthday in April 2020. With the theme “Journey to Excellence,” the observance kicks off this summer with historical notes and special events.

CYS staff will provide garrisons with historical key messages highlighting core programs, such as child development programs, school age centers, Family childcare and youth services. Garrisons will plan local events and activities to support the observance.

However, according to George Dickson, Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, director, Fort Belvoir will be holding the observance closer to the actual birthday. 

“We plan on having our events to celebrate the Child and Youth Services 40th birthday next spring, closer to the actual date in April. We have so many things going on, like the upcoming Maddie and Tae Concert, July 26, the Summer Reading Program, youth sporting events and adult intramural sports, there just isn’t a place this summer to recognize the CYS birthday in the way it should be recognized,” he said. 

A history of service

For the past 40 years, Army CYS has played a key role in reducing the conflict between parental responsibilities and unit mission requirements. The program follows a four-pronged operation strategy that is based on quality care, affordability for patrons, availability and accountability.

In addition to the CDCs, other core CYS programs include Parent Central, an information network; referrals for community-based, off-post childcare; school-age programs, such as before- and after-school care, camps and summer care; middle school and teen programs; and sports and fitness programs. 

For Families with a deployed Soldier, CYS also assists with respite and on-site childcare, discounted fees, and tutoring and homework assistance. 

Other programs developed by CYS include School Support Services, Strong Beginnings pre-K program, Army Fee Assistance, Ready and Resilient Teens, financial management training, standardized menus and others. 

Meeting Army Families needs

CYS worldwide now encompasses 12,000 employees and 205,000 children. In June 2018, CYS accreditation rates were 98%, compared to the national private-sector rate of 10%.

CYS Chief Suzanne King said the mission is critical. “We will continue to do great things and be a role model for childcare,” she said. 

The CYS tagline, “Support for Army Families Found Here,” reflects the program’s mission: To integrate and deliver base support to reduce the conflict between parental responsibilities and unit mission requirements and enable combat readiness for a globally responsive Army. 

When Army childcare began in 1980, the first four-year classes with female students were graduating from the service academies. As women entered the workforce in greater numbers and as an all-volunteer Army included more married than single Soldiers, CYS has adapted and added programs to assist Families, and plans to continue working to meet their future needs.

The 40th birthday celebration will culminate in April 2020 in conjunction with the annual observance of Month of the Military Child. During that month three events are held: the Young Lives, Big Stories contest, an art and writing competition for military children; Operation Megaphone lock-ins for middle school and high school students, and Purple Up for Military Kids, an awareness program that encourages people to wear purple to show their support for military children.