Federal Hiring Freeze Affects Military Childcare Programs?

Letters circulating on Facebook assert that military bases plan to reduce childcare programs because of a federal hiring freeze.

  • Published 22 February 2017

On 21 February 2017, the Facebook page “VoteVets.org” published a photograph of a letter purportedly announcing reductions to childcare services on one military base (along with reports of other such closures):

Military.com published an article on 21 February 2017 reporting the suspension of some childcare programs at two Army bases due to a civilian hiring freeze:

A federal civilian hiring freeze ordered by President Donald Trump has forced at least two Army bases to indefinitely suspend some child care programs.

Officials at Fort Knox, Kentucky, notified families Feb. 17 of the suspension to the on-base part-day child development center (CDC) programs, its hourly care program and the enrollment of new families into the CDC.

“Effective immediately, no new children will be enrolled in the CDC,” states the letter, signed by Fort Knox garrison commander Col. Stephen Aiton. “Also, effective 27 February 2017, the CDC will no longer accommodate childcare for our hourly care and part day families until further notice.”

The CDC’s part-day programs include its part-day preschools. Many military families, including some CDC workers, rely on hourly care for child care during part-time jobs or school hours, or when the full-time day care program is full. One Army spouse at Fort Knox reported that the wait list for her 1-year-old is estimated through July [2017].

“We are prevented from bringing new caregivers on board but are still having our usual staff turnover and illnesses, which creates challenges to maintaining ratios and providing quality childcare,” the Fort Knox letter states.

The New York Times reported on the 23 January 2017 memorandum issued by President Trump that implemented a federal hiring freeze:

President Trump [has] ordered an across-the-board employment freeze for the federal government, halting hiring for all new and existing positions except those in national security, public safety and the military.

In the two-page order, Mr. Trump said the directive was a stopgap way to control the growth of government until his budget director recommends a long-term plan to significantly reduce the federal work force through attrition.

“In carrying out this memorandum, I ask that you seek efficient use of existing personnel and funds to improve public services and the delivery of these services,” Mr. Trump wrote in the memorandum, one of his first acts as president. “Accordingly, this memorandum does not prohibit making reallocations to meet the highest priority needs and to ensure that essential services are not interrupted and national security is not affected.”

The hiring freeze’s effect on military childcare specifically wasn’t immediately apparent:

IMCOM [Army Installation Management Command] officials said they are unaware of any other bases suspending their hourly or part-day programs as a result of the hiring freeze.

Officials with the Navy said although the service requires a similar approval process for hiring exemptions, they are unaware of any CDC programs being shuttered as a result.

Marine Corps and Air Force officials did not respond by deadline to requests for comment.

The Military Times reported, however, that Army child care providers are exempt from the hiring freeze, a fact some base staff may be unaware of:

Despite Defense Department guidance that exempts child care workers from President Trump’s federal civilian hiring freeze, at least two Army installations have notified parents they’re being forced to make cuts in their child care programs.

Defense officials are working with Army officials to ensure the Army bases are aware they have the ability to request authority to hire child care workers, a spokesman said. Officials at Fort Knox, Kentucky, and Army Garrison Weisbaden, Germany, did not immediately respond to Military Times questions regarding whether they were aware of, or had pursued, the hiring exemptions.

Defense Department guidance issued Feb. 1 specifically exempts “Positions providing child care to the children of military personnel.” However, the service branches still must seek approval to hire workers to fill those positions when they become vacant, said DoD spokesman Johnny Michael.

DoD is aware that bases including Fort Knox and Wiesbaden have announced child care cuts, Michael said, and officials “are working through the chain of command with these installations to ensure that they are taking advantage of the ability to seek exemptions.”

Military.com noted that on-base childcare “historically had problems keeping positions filled due to high turnover and a sluggish background check system through which all workers must be vetted.” They also noted that day care programs at some Army bases would still be suspended despite the hiring freeze exemption due to delays in filling open positions:

Officials at two Army bases still plan to temporarily suspend some day care programs despite permission from the Defense Department to hire workers because they cannot fill the positions fast enough to avoid the shutdowns, they said.

“Hiring child care professionals is a multistep process to perform the necessary background, safety and health checks required for individuals taking care of our community’s children,” Jacob Corbin, a spokesman for U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden, Germany, said in an email.

“As soon as we have identified a timeline to bring our part-time care services back online, we will be letting our community know,” he said.

Similarly, officials at Fort Knox, Kentucky, said in a statement, “Selections to fill vacant positions have already been made in many cases, but background checks and pre-employment requirements must still be carried out prior to working at the Child Development Center.”

UPDATE: 24 February 2017 — We added information to this article about Army childcare programs being exempt from the hiring freeze.

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