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CDC: supporting Air Force families

Meredith Yoder, 20th Force Support Squadron (FSS) program assistant, center, converses with children in her class during lunch at the 20th FSS Child Development Center at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 12, 2018.

Meredith Yoder, 20th Force Support Squadron (FSS) program assistant, center, converses with children in her class during lunch at the 20th FSS Child Development Center at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 12, 2018. By building bonds with children in the classes, program assistants and leads foster learning and development in developmental domains such as language, social and motor skills. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kathryn R.C. Reaves)

Cheryl Champagne, 20th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center (CDC) program assistant, blows bubbles for children at the CDC at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 12, 2018.

Cheryl Champagne, 20th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center (CDC) program assistant, blows bubbles for children at the CDC at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 12, 2018. During activities, CDC program assistants and leads observe each child to provide feedback to parents, helping set goals and improve growth. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kathryn R.C. Reaves)

A Team Shaw child squeezes a dropper mixing food coloring and water during a lesson at the 20th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 12, 2018.

A Team Shaw child squeezes a dropper mixing food coloring and water during a lesson at the 20th Force Support Squadron Child Development Center at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., Feb. 12, 2018. Program assistants tailor lessons to help children learn through play. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Kathryn R.C. Reaves)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. -- As Team Shaw parents mentally prepare to tackle the day’s tasks and walk hand-in-hand with their child down the long hall of the child development center at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, they wonder how their child will handle the day.

They wonder if their son or daughter will cry, scream or kick.

Moments later, the group walks into the classroom and the child runs into the arms of their teacher, laughing as they greet each other.

A smile begins to spread across the parents’ faces as worry fades and they focus on getting the mission done.

Caregivers assigned to the 20th Force Support Squadron CDC work to ensure the center is more than just ‘daycare.’

Anna Williams, 20th FSS program lead, said the CDC is held to a higher standard than daycares and focuses on the physical, emotional and mental growth of the youth.

“Even though they’re playing, they’re actually learning,” said Williams. “We want it to be fun for them, but at the same time we’re preparing them for the next stage of life.”

This preparation comes in the form of planned lessons targeting developmental domains such as language, social and motor skills.

From these lessons, caregivers gather information about the child to share with parents to extend learning into the home.

“There’s daily communication about events of the day and any particular issues that may come up,” said Cheryl Champagne, 20th FSS program assistant. “We do formal assessments and informal assessments … and talk to them about our goals and our observations.”

Keeping parents informed about their kid’s growth helps build a relationship and increases the family’s confidence in the center.

“A lot of times, they’re a little skeptical,” said Williams, “but when they get in and they see how things are governed, they feel very confident. They feel faith (in us) with their children being here.”

While teaching and helping youth grow, care providers also build unique bonds with each child in their classroom.

“I personally assure (parents), when they leave their baby with me, they’re ‘my babies,’” said, Williams. “I’m not going to let anything happen to their baby that I wouldn’t let happen to my biological baby. I develop that rapport with them and establish that trust so they know we’ll do everything in our efforts to see that their baby is being cared for in the utmost standards.”

As children become older and move to higher age-group classrooms, program assistants and leads work together to provide continued quality of care and may keep in touch with the families.

“It’s wonderful to be able to get to know families, watch their children grow and be a part of their experience here,” said Champagne.

By providing an environment focused on growth and learning through play, 20th FSS CDC caregivers deliberately care for and support families and Team Shaw service members who make sacrifices to get their missions done.