Petty Officer Delise Rozier, left, Petty Officer Mary Trice and Lara Askerooth, spokeswoman for the Navy's pilot child-care program in Hawaii, keep an eye on Jonathan Riley Ware. The Navy hopes to help parents with the military's first round-the-clock child-care service.

Navy program offers
extended child care

The pilot project, one of two
planned, will have care available
around the clock

By Gregg K. Kakesako

Nearly a year and half ago, Petty Officer Delise Rozier was ready to leave the Navy because her job as a sailor was conflicting with being a single parent trying to raise two children.

"I was stressed," said Rozier, a 15-year Navy veteran. "I had recently gotten a divorce. I was working, but not at the top of my game. I was ready to call it quits.

"Finally I had to call home, and an uncle picked up his roots and moved in with me ... but a lot of people aren't as fortunate as I was."

Petty Officer Mary Trice, another single parent with two children, said when she was assigned as a cook to a ship at Norfolk, Va., she had to be at work at 4 each morning.

"That meant I had to be up by 3 every morning and didn't get off until 6 or 7 at night," said Trice, 31. "Since there were six of us, we ended up take caring of each other's kids. That's the only way we could make it work."

The Pentagon reports that in the military, there are more than 1.2 million children under the age of 18 with about 244,000 younger than 13. More than 59 percent of its active duty force is married, with 6 percent of military members single parents and another 6 percent in dual-military marriages.

The Navy hopes to help those parents with the military's first 24-hour, seven days a week child-care service.

Military child-care programs serve more than 200,000 children daily. Clockwise from top left, Mary Trice stands with Isabel Aquilar and Noah Rhodes; Harold Metz talks to Lara Askerooth; and Delise Rozier plays with Rosanna Ambrose.

"We are definitely in the forefront of this one," said Lara Askerooth, spokeswoman for Navy Region Hawaii's pilot project.

The child-care program here is one of two planned by the Navy. The other is in Virginia and will help the Navy find out "if truly there is a need," Askerooth said.

"We know if people are concerned about the well-being of their children, they will not be happy at work," she added. "Our goal is to make it so good so that they want to stay here and choose to remain in the Navy."

There are at least four Navy commands here that operate around the clock, and she knows there are sailors like Rozier and Trice who will welcome the relief.

Askerooth said the project will provide after-hours and weekend child care in both a home setting and at a Pearl Harbor facility, which will probably be a renovated Navy housing complex.

Askerooth said the goal is to get a facility in operation by May.

The Navy, like its sister services, already run child development centers and family care homes, which provide care during the week, from about 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., for children aged 6 weeks to 12 years.

The military is believed to run the largest employer-sponsored child-care program in the country, serving more than 200,000 children daily.

Worldwide, the military maintains such services at more than 300 locations, through 800 child development centers and more than 9,000 family child-care homes. With these services, the Department of Defense says it is meeting 58 percent of the need with 173,522 spaces, but acknowledges there is a need for an additional 297,635 spaces.

The Pentagon's goal is to meet 65 percent of the need by 2003.

Askerooth said the Navy tried to keep its day care-centers open later in the evenings, "but for different reasons, it didn't work."

The new 24-hour care facility will try to be as flexible as possible to accommodate people's schedules, she added.

The rates for the facility are expected to be similar to those charged by the day-care centers, Askerooth said, and are on a sliding scale based on a family's total income. Currently, the rates charged for child care 12 hours a day, Monday through Friday, range from $250 a month to $560.

The pilot project grew out of a Navy family summit meeting last August held in Boston and attended by 300 sailors of all ranks and family members.

"The purpose of the meeting was to find out what the Navy can do better to improve the quality of life for sailors," Askerooth said.

One area was a need for child care for shift workers -- many of them single parents or dual-military parents -- who work beyond the traditional nine to five work day, she said.

Rozier, who just transferred here after working on the aircraft carrier USS Roosevelt, said there was a "definite big need" for such after-hours child care at her last assignment in Norfolk.

"There were incidents in Norfolk where young mothers just left their children at home alone because they were too scared not to report to work on time," she said. "These were young single mothers who just didn't know what to do."

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