TOBYHANNA ARMY DEPOT, Pa. — In the late 1980s a new program director introduced the Army-sponsored In-Home Child Care Program to caregivers living in eight of Tobyhanna Army Depot’s 40 military family housing units. Today she leads a staff of 36 in caring for nearly 300 children in a 20,000 square foot, state-of-the-art facility equipped with computer labs and a multi-purpose sport room.
For 30 years parents have elected to enroll their children in on-post child care programs. In the beginning officials worried if there would be enough interest to support the program. These days Child and Youth Services (CYS) boasts a number of Defense Department certified, state certified and nationally accredited programs for infants, toddlers, preschoolers and teenagers.
Madison Township resident Anne Wombacker, CYS coordinator, has been a driving force behind the evolution of the local programs. She’s the one who set things in motion in 1987and recalls there were about 30 children enrolled in the original program.
The scope of the program has changed; however, the quality of care remains the same. Wombacker says the key to their success is the skilled staff that delivers expert child care to working parents. Classroom and support staff, plus managers, participate in annual, mandatory training. New hires start off with a 40-hour training orientation.
“We’re one of the smallest programs in the Army, which gives us the opportunity to try more things,” she said. “The ultimate goal is to make sure the children are safe, comfortable and happy.”
Programs are always changing, said Wombacker, who pointed out that the current preschool program covers a lot of what people would have seen in a kindergarten class 30 years ago. Staff members are always finding new ways to help the children thrive, she added.
What the children notice is the fun in the fundamental care they receive every day.
“I like doing activities like art,” said one toddler. A 5-year old boy mentioned that he likes to draw and play with toys during school. A couple children claim the train tracks and a large garbage truck are their favorites. “I just like to play,” said another boy.
Over the years CYS has been able to fine tune a long list of activities available to their target audience. The Little Dragons karate class is still going strong after two years and dozens of children participate in the annual Fun Fitness Day event. Summer Camp is a hit with the school age set; those slots fill up fast.
Last year, parents were introduced to an open recreation night on every other Thursday; it’s free to anyone enrolled in one of the programs.
“Parents can schedule a date night or shopping trip from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. on those nights,” said Eynon resident Jen Williams, facility director. “We serve the children a light dinner and plan an activity around a theme. The kids really enjoy it.”
First and foremost, staff members are focused on providing a fun, yet challenging, learning environment for the children. Summer hires, college students and local teachers augment CYS capabilities throughout the year. They all love working with children.
“The most rewarding thing for me is when I come to work and the children are excited for the day to begin,” said Covington Township resident Yvette, CYS staff member for nine years.
It’s been less than a year since Blakeslee resident Lisandra joined the staff and she tells everyone the children “brighten” her days. Ten years ago, Moosic resident Patti accepted a job she’s passionate about. She loves it when the children run to greet her every morning and how their eyes light up when learning new things.
“I think the most rewarding part of my job is the impact I have on the children’s lives,” said Tobyhanna resident Jeanette, a nine year veteran. “Encouraging the children to try new things and learn about different things is priceless.”
Tobyhanna Army Depot is a recognized leader in providing world-class logistics support for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems across the Department of Defense. Tobyhanna's Corporate Philosophy, dedicated work force and electronics expertise ensure the depot is the Joint C4ISR provider of choice for all branches of the Armed Forces and industry partners.
Tobyhanna's unparalleled capabilities include full-spectrum logistics support for sustainment, overhaul and repair, fabrication and manufacturing, engineering design and development, systems integration, post production software support, technology insertion, modification, foreign military sales and global field support to our Joint Warfighters.
About 3,200 personnel are employed at Tobyhanna, which is located in the Pocono Mountains of northeastern Pennsylvania. Tobyhanna Army Depot is part of the U.S. Army Communications-Electronics Command. Headquartered at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, the command’s mission is to research, develop, acquire, field and sustain communications, command, control computer, intelligence, electronic warfare and sensors capabilities for the Armed Forces.