DLA HQ Child Development Center reopens as government-run facility

By Christopher Goulait

Parents, Defense Logistics Agency officials and stuffed animals assembled to celebrate the grand reopening of the DLA Headquarters Child Development Center at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, June 5.

The previously contracted CDC switched to being a government-run facility over the weekend, with the ceremony marking the end of the year-long planning process.

“I’d like us to embrace new beginnings, build our foundations and preserve our strong relationships,” said Wendy Paul, director of the CDC for DLA headquarters, during the ceremony.

Paul’s role in the newly DLA-run facility is managing a staff of about 110 now-government employees and providing support for 300 children from six weeks to five years of age.

She described the end of the transition process as very low-impact to the families, with the only closure being the previous Friday, for work in the classrooms and staff training.

“Overall, it was a very smooth transition,” Paul said. “I believe that the children will notice new toys, new rugs, new products in their rooms. Other than that, it’ll be business as usual.”

While parents and children might not notice any changes to the quality of care they see, Paul described some changes that took place behind the curtain.

“Everybody here is now a [nonappropriated fund], or a federal, employee. The operation is now totally government-run,” she said. “No one should notice anything on the front end any different, but on the back end all of our guidance and everything will be run in accordance with DLA policy. The funding and how we’re reimbursed will be different, but the fees stay the same.”

She also explained other benefits included a cost savings from switching from contractor to government operation, as well as better flow for making any policy changes.

All these transition-related changes were communicated to the parents every step of the way. One method was by working closely with the center’s Parental Advisory Board. Anastasia Prado, PAB president, DLA Energy employee and parent of a child at the facility, mentioned how good communication among the transition team, the PAB and the parents made sure that everyone stayed well informed and comfortable with what was going on.

“[Questions] mostly centered on how it was going to affect their teachers and how it’s going to affect their kids,” Prado said. “The big questions revolved around wanting this to be seamless. They didn’t want any disruption for the children; that was the main concern.”

PAB meetings and emails were a source of reassuring and informative updates, which Prado noted from her view as both PAB president and a parent was important as kids and feelings are included.

“It’s easy to think, ‘Be calm,’ when you’re thinking about it on a logical level, but any time you start getting emotions involved, it’s harder to stay calm, cool and collected because you become so much more emotional as a parent,” she said.

But long after the adults have finished talking about the transition, it’s still all about the kids. Tamika Thomas, or “Miss Mickey” to her students, is lead teacher for classroom 107B and shared what she said they noticed.

“We had a discussion about it this morning,” Thomas said. Some things they noticed were, “for example, the rugs. They were asking why there are flags outside. They asked about the new toys. We’ve just been having a discussion about what happened, since they were gone on Friday and this is what was taking place while they weren’t here. They’re all very excited.”

Thomas said she and many of the teachers are expecting great things.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how all the families and the teachers interact together with the new curriculum and the new DLA family here,” she said. The center “is still going to be a great place for families and for their children’s education.”