NORFOLK NAVAL SHIPYARD, Portsmouth, Va. –
Like every month, April has its own array of holidays and observances, but one in particular is held near and dear to the heart of Norfolk Naval Shipyard’s (NNSY) Children and Youth Program (CYP): The Month of the Military Child. The observance honors the sacrifices made by children of military personnel as they support their parents’ efforts to protect the country. NNSY CYP offers services for children of service members throughout the year, including hosting special events during Month of the Military Child.
Care for military children has come a long way since the 1950s, when military child care was organized by informal groups of military wives and parent cooperatives. “The first military child care system lacked any official structure and was essentially an hourly babysitting service for spouses who were working outside the home and parents who wanted socialization opportunities for their children,” the NNSY CYP website’s history page reads. Two decades later in 1978, the Department of Defense (DoD) mandated child care as an official Morale, Welfare and Recreation (MWR) activity, but there was no requirement for formal services to be offered. After the Vietnam War, more military children were in need of care as the number of women and dual working couples in the military grew. Finally, the Military Child Care Act of 1989 was passed in Congress, changing military child care for the better in quality, affordability, and accessibility. Changes include established accreditation requirements, an effective and efficient child care subsidy system, raised staff wages, and many more.
Today, the Navy CYP provides services to 45,000 children and youth across the globe, with NNSY CYP being one of its many branches has provided military and civilian employee child care for decades. “NNSY CYP provides developmental child care and youth recreational programs for children from four weeks old to 18 years old,” NNSY CYP Oversight Director Renee Grant said. “The programs are designed to operate and meet the unique needs of the families, military mission and service members.”
NNSY CYP is accredited with organizations such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) and the Council on Accreditation (COA). Its locations include the New Gosport Youth Center and two Child Development Centers (CDC) in New Gosport and Scott Center.
Traditionally, the program has honored Military Child Month every year with a “Purple Up!” parade, posters, stories, and various activities that often included the children’s parents. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic CYP will be doing things a little differently this year. “Our programs will have to think outside of the box but will still provide our children with activities while being safe,” Grant said.
Despite the obstacles the pandemic brings, Grant and her team are determined to celebrate the communities they serve. “April is not the only month our programs celebrate military children,” she said. “We strive each and every day to ensure our children and military families know they are true heroes. NNSY CYP endeavors to meet that goal by providing quality developmental child care, taking pride in what we do, and doing our best at all times in being careful, prepared and trained.”
For more information or to register for NNSY CYP programs, visit militarychildcare.com.