EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — They say it takes a village to raise a child, but Congresswoman Veronica Escobar is hopeful that a country can help care for its service members’ children.
KTSM 9 News toured the recently updated Armed Services YMCA (ASYMCA) Child Development Center with Escobar and the facility’s leadership to discuss how to improve childcare for military families across the U.S.
“Child care, in general, is fundamental. But I will tell you, the American government has been deficient when it comes to providing access — enough access to high-quality childcare for our service members,” said Escobar.
Last year, the United States Department of Defense (DOD) reported that 9,000 military children were on waitlists for childcare. At the same time, 135 military child development centers were found to be in poor or failing conditions.
Escobar is working to pass the MIlitary Child Care Expansion Act that would address the gaps in services for military families when it comes to access to childcare as part of her work as Vice Chair of the House Subcommittee on Military Personnel.
She and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (CA-14) are spearheading efforts to pass the legislation to address critical gaps in services.
The Military Child Care Expansion Act would establish new funding streams and pilot public-private partnerships to bolster child care capacity for military families.
The ASYMCA is nationally-accredited and state-licensed to offer high-quality and affordable childcare to local military families that its leadership says is buttressed in supporting and promoting resiliency in families.
The facility’s leadership says it’s proudly been serving families at Ft. Bliss, El Paso, White Sands Missile Range, and Holloman Air Force Base.
“Standards are important, and if you maintain those standards, not only are you going to have a great facility but the most important thing is for people who drop off their kids for care with us know their kids are going to be taken care of,” George Elsaesser, Executive Director at the ASYMCA El Paso tells KTSM.
Elsaesser says that they’re working to develop hourly day care services for military parents that will allow them to drop-off their kids as necessary to make medical appointments, run errands, etc.
The updated El Paso facility boasts bright but soothing colors in pale shades of yellow and green, and offers STEAM and computer rooms where the children can learn, socialize, and develop critical thinking skills.
“This is precisely what we want to see all over the country, but especially in areas where there is highest demand and long waitlists,” said Escobar.
During the tour, Escobar met with staff and leadership, as well as some of the children who attend the Child Development Center, each party eager to share and collaborate.
Escobar shared that she remembers the relief she felt once she found reliable and affordable child care for her two children who are now in their twenties.
For single parent military households and households with two service members as parents, the child care crisis is exacerbated by the reality that most families won’t remain in the same place –ergo the same child care facilities — for a sustained amount of time.
“One of the things we realized early on is that the Department of Defense can’t do it all — we need great partners,” said Escobar. “There are many organizations that are already successful and have the capacity to help.”
The ASYMCA Child Development Center offers care for military children that range from summer camps and full-time daycare, to before and after school care and tutoring, and more.
The facility works in partnership with Ft. Bliss to make child care accessible, as well as give back to the community through service.
The community can help the efforts to support military families in the Borderland by donating children’s clothing and school supplies to the ASYMCA, who will then make sure the funds are distributed on base to the families who need help most.
Escobar says she and Speier — as well as more of their colleagues in the U.S. Congress — are working to pass the legislation and says the best way the community can help is by contacting state lawmakers in support of the bill.
“We have to do better by our men and women servicemembers,” noted Escobar.