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RAF LAKENHEATH, England — A program being developed across the Air Force will prevent parents from missing work when a child falls ill.

The Mildly Ill Childcare Program is being tested at 25 bases across the world, including RAF Lakenheath, England, and Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

The goal is to provide parents a place to drop off a child too sick for regular day care, so neither mom nor dad will have to stay home.

“I think for the dual military and especially single parents, it will be beneficial, in that they won’t have to take time off from work,” said Chartelle Eichman, family child-care coordinator at RAF Mildenhall, which will share in the program.

Katrina Trueman, mother of two who works at RAF Lakenheath, England, said the program would be valuable.

“I believe the program will be a great asset to working parents at RAF Lakenheath,” she said. “We strive to put the mission first, but when our children are ill, it puts unnecessary stress on everyone involved.”

“The need is obvious,” said Debra Strand, family child-care coordinator for RAF Lakenheath. “On probably any given day, the child-care center or the youth center probably sends a couple kids out (because of illness),” she said.

The Air Force will pay for the program’s provider so parents will not take on an additional expense. They will continue to pay for their regular child care.

Although a date for the program to start at the base in England has not been set, one important hurdle has been cleared.

Michelle Bursey, who was been a family child-care provider for 10 years, has been selected to care for the children who enter the program. She took special training for the position, but has often cared for children with special needs in the past.

“I always pray for patience whether they’re sick or healthy,” she said when asked about the added burden of caring for children in her home who are under the weather. “It will be a challenge.”

“Children will be referred to the mildly ill program by the local clinic,” Strand said. “Parents must first have the child seen by doctors, rather than take the child directly to the program’s care provider.

“Michelle will not make any decisions about who can come into her home,” she said. “They will have to be screened by the clinic.”

Coordination is key, Strand said, so children with illnesses that might be affected adversely by the presence of children with other problems won’t mix.

A child with chronic asthma, for example, she said, should not be put into the same house with a child with chicken pox.

“A child with asthma is very sensitive,” Strand said. “That’s why the referrals will be made only by medical professionals.

“The test phase of the program will last six months. If successful, it could be fully implemented. We’re excited about taking on something new and different and making it work.”


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