Brig. Gen. James J. Jones, 55th Wing commander; Nebraska Sen. Benjamin Nelson and Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pearson, 55th Force Support Squadron commander; and John Kundinger, 55th Mission Support Group director, take the first cut at the official ribbon cutting ceremony Sept. 2 at the new child development center at Offutt. (U.S. Air Force Photo By/Jeff Gates)
by Staff Sgt. Hillary A. Stonemetz
55 Wing Public Affairs
9/3/2008 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Brightly painted walls and child-friendly furniture greet visitors as they enter Offutt AFB's new child development center which opened its doors Sept. 2.
Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson and representatives for Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel and Nebraska Congressman Lee Terry were on hand for the ribbon cutting ceremony.
"It's a pleasure for me to be here today and see the completion of this tremendous facility for the children," said Sen. Nelson. "We recognize that the men and women of our military have requirements for childcare that are significant."
Servicemember's frequent deployments and military duties necessitate flexible and reliable child care options, said Sen. Nelson.
"We have now made it possible for more families to be able to have childcare so that our men and women can fulfill their duties to our country," he said.
The new CDC has the capacity to accommodate 302 children from six weeks to 12 years of age. The new facility boasts 22 activity rooms including two multipurpose rooms, two isolated nursing rooms, a unique water room and four playgrounds--each with age appropriate equipment. There are also heated floors and a state-of-the-art closed circuit television. Each room is color coded to help parents easily locate their children in the large building.
Previously, the child development system was only able to accommodate 196 children and had an extensive waiting list. The addition of the new child development center will help alleviate the strain on the old CDC.
"The combined centers will now have the capacity for 498 children," said Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pearson, 55th Force Support Squadron commander. "This facility will allow us to expand our world-class care to the Airmen and families of more than 286 children who are currently on our waiting list."
The addition of the new child development center is much needed relief for many families.
"I'm totally overwhelmed," said Jessica LeBlanc, mother of a four year old and spouse of a military retiree. "We have been through the old system. It was pretty nerve- wracking trying to figure out where your child was going to be and waiting to get that phone call to get in."
The fact that other military families here will now have an improved process reduces the stress on families, especially during deployments, and for single parents, she said.
"Home day cares tend to be less flexible with the DoD with our times away or if we have to work later," said Ms. LeBlanc. "The Child Development Center is more apt to understand if there is an exercise going on, if parents need their children to stay a little later; most daycare centers don't do that."
The child development center is more than just a building; it also has a highly trained staff to help children.
"Our staff members go through an intensive training program through all developmental skills a child will need from birth through five years of age," said Anne Dalton, 55th FSS training and curriculum specialist. "We also do training for children who have special needs."
For more information or to set up a tour of the new facility for prospective patrons, call 232-2526.