DVIDS – News – Idaho Guard opens its first free daycare center

Members of the Idaho National Guard held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the first daycare center at Gowen Field on Saturday.

The Child and Youth Center is part of a program that provides free childcare to Idaho National Guardsmen with children ages 6 months to 12 years old during exercise weekends as part of the IDNG Drill Weekend Childcare program.

The program is the first of its kind in the Idaho National Guard and is designed to support child retention efforts by making it easier for Guardsmen's dependents to find and pay for child care while participating in exercises.

“Providing child care for our Guardsmen on training weekends has been a goal of mine for many years,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, Idaho's commander and adjutant general. “Thanks to the efforts of our amazing team at the J9 Service Member & Family Support Directorate, this goal has become a reality. Hopefully, over time, we can expand these services to accommodate the entire military division workforce.”

Garshak, along with other members of the organization, including Lt. Col. Christian O'Leary, director of J9, led efforts to develop a centralized base program in 2023 to improve the support available to military members.

Idaho Army National Guardsman First Lieutenant Kelly Minium said she is grateful for the program and to the organization for its support.

“Finding child care on the weekend is difficult and expensive,” Minium said. “As a single mother with no family in the area, having access to free child care on exercise weekends allows me to continue my service in the Idaho National Guard and provide for my family.”

1st Lt. Joshua Seward, director of the State Family Program, said the lack of affordable child care on training weekends has been a problem in retaining military members for years.

Parents can pay hundreds of dollars a weekend for child care during practice weekends, sometimes more than what they get for attending practice.

In January, the organization began offering child care in a temporary facility on base while it worked to open its Children and Youth Center. Since then, it has helped hundreds of soldiers on training weekends, saving them hundreds to thousands of dollars.

Staff Sgt. Cindy Ceja, Idaho Army National Guardsman, has used the program since it opened.

“This program has truly been a lifeline for my family and me,” said Ceja. “On weekends, I was constantly struggling to find affordable and trustworthy care for my young daughters, which caused tremendous stress. I even considered leaving the Guard when my contract was up. This program came just in time and alleviated those worries.”

With the opening of the new center, the program now offers even more space with two facilities and four separate rooms equipped with new furniture, toys, games, cribs and more to create a fun and safe environment for education and entertainment.

The organization hopes to expand the program through future funding initiatives to help members drilling in different regions of Idaho.

Date taken: 06.10.2024
Release Date: 06.10.2024 11:05
Story ID: 473494

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