MARINE CORPS BASE CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. --
The need for childcare aboard Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune is an ongoing concern for service members and their families, but with five new child development centers opening by next year, the wait list for care should shorten dramatically.
Friday, base leadership held a ribbon cutting ceremony for the first of the new CDCs. The 24-room, 300 max capacity facility aboard Tarawa Terrace II for children ages six weeks to five years old will be fully operational after the Thanksgiving holiday.
The new centers have been in the planning since the 1990s but the need was exacerbated in 2008 when 65,000 Marines and families moved to the area as part of the "Grow the Force" initiative. Since then, waiting lists for spaces have been up to a year long.
Marla Talley, the family care branch manager, Marine Corps Community Services, said many families choose to bypass the system entirely, choosing civilian providers instead.
"They are probably being cared for in unauthorized, potentially dangerous situations," said Talley. "Our goal is to clear the wait list to be able to place people immediately when they come in and we'll be able to do that for the next few months. We're hoping to give families options for quality, affordable care."
By the end of 2012, the base will have 1,900 childcare spaces in total. While an estimated 3,000 spaces are needed to meet the demand for families aboard the base, Talley said the new centers mean a promising start.
"What we really hope is that it will offer those people with the really young children quality childcare," Talley added.
Seventy percent of facility spaces are for children two and under with 56 infant spaces for children ages 6 weeks to one year old and 80 spaces for children one to two years old.
"We encourage our military families to explore all of their options. We just want to be one of the options that they consider," said Tally. "Our fees here are based on total family income. For the most part, our fees are less than or comparable to what they would be paying in the civilian community."
The centers also offer state-of-the-art energy efficiency devices, skylights, access to outdoor play spaces and top-quality children's furniture and toys.
Talley said the MCB Camp Lejeune childcare program has improved enormously since she started caring for children in base facilities in 1989.
"I'm thrilled to death today that we have high standards and great programs," she added.
Three more centers, includingone in the Midway Park housing area that will operate mostly on solar power, are slated to open by January.
A series of open houses are also slated for after the holidays. Dates can be found by visiting www.mccslejeune.com/cytp or calling Resource and Referral at 449-9463 or 449-9552.
A job fair will be held at the Tarawa Terrace II Youth Pavilion Dec. 3 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the purpose of hiring 150 to 200 local childcare workers for the new centers.