A classroom in Fort Belvoir's North Post CDC in this 2018 file photo.

Fort Belvoir’s Child and Youth Services continues to carefully increase the capacities at both the Child Development and School Age Children centers, according to Janet Evans, Chief, CYS.

“CYS continues to increase the CDC and SAC capacities in a slow, phased and incremental process, returning currently enrolled families back into care under COVID group size restrictions since March, and to current staffing levels. CYS operates at the direction of IMCOM G9 and the Garrison command, under COVID health protection measures as well as now following the new DoD Patron Priorities for Childcare Services that was implemented on 1 Sept. 2020,” Evans said.

Evans said the biggest change came with the implementation of the new DoD Paron Priorities, which affords active duty Service members and their spouses higher priority for child care.

“This is a big impact to the Fort Belvoir CYS patron demographics, as active duty and their spouses now have priority over DoD civilians. It’s not a new policy, but was changed years ago to give DoD civilians the same priority as active duty. It has since created a significant waitlist for our Service members and their families when PCSing to the area and having to sit on the waitlist longer. As a prior military myself, as well as a military spouse for many years, I know the significant impact this can have on a military family, directed to move from installation to installation, and not have reliable daycare readily available, at a cost they can afford. This impacts mission readiness for our military members,” she said.

George Dixon, director of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation, said complying with all requirements, while also preparing to step back, if needed, has been an incredible balancing act.

“The term balancing act has been an understatement since COVID operations started in March, and with the implementation of the new DoD Priorities thrown in. But, the CYS team are ‘mega rock stars’ working through and balancing it all. The very strict guidelines in place are all in close collaboration with the Fort Belvoir tenant organizations (Fort Belvoir Community Hospital Public Health, Garrison Safety and the Garrison Environmental Health) for ensuring extensive COVID health and safety protocols, that have put in place, remain in place either to respond to further expansion or reductions of services,” Dixon said.

Evans agreed that it has taken incredible teamwork, and is thankful for understanding customers.

“CYS remains responsive and sensitive to all our families concerning the impact to child care services during COVD operations, as well as the added impact of implementation of the new DoD Priorities,” Evans said. “It’s been rapid fire and non-stop since COVID started and I can’t thank the team enough for hanging in there. We’ve also had amazing installation command and tenant unit leadership support as well as we worked through it all. Many times we were ahead of operational guidance, due to how fast conditions changed. It remains an unprecedented time for everyone.

“We owe our customers a debt of gratitude and a thanks for continuing to work with CYS through these issues, despite not always having the answers or the timelines our customers were or are requiring or needing. Our number one priority will remain ensuring the health and safety of every child entrusted into our care, as well as all the CYS staff.”