Long process hinders hiring for child care
January 27, 2007
YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — Are you a high school grad 18 or older who loves kids? Are your closets skeleton-free? Can you pass a drug test? The clincher: Are you patient enough to endure a long hiring process?
If you answered “yes” to all these questions, please fill out a child care staff application for the Yokosuka Naval Base Child Development Center.
A staff shortfall has prohibited the filling of 75 children’s spaces currently open at Yokosuka’s four CDC locations.
Although all dual active-duty and single active-duty parents receive placements, said Eugenia Thompson, the operations/reference and referral clerk, 230 “lower priority” households remain on the waiting list — where they’ll likely stay for 15 months.
“It’s frustrating for parents,” Thompson said. “We explain it, but they don’t understand. They just want care for their children.”
To cope with the demands of a young, military population of “childbearing age,” said Child Development Program Administrator Kathryn Hardebeck, the CDC advertises for new employees at job fairs and media outlets.
But delays — such as this year’s six-week hiring freeze due to the lack of money for required drug screening — can cause good people to lose interest, Hardebeck said.
“While we’re held up with staffing, the individual might find another job,” she said. “No one disputes the regulations — they are designed to keep kids safe and that’s our business — but we could use more applications.”
Getting a CDC job begins at the Human Resources Office with a stack of paperwork, Tammy Wright, a relatively new hire, said on Thursday.
“Once you fill out all that paperwork, HRO decides if you get an interview,” she said.
After that interview at the CDC is scheduled, references are checked. Then come more hoops: All CDC workers must pass a federal background check and a pre-employment drug screening before they’re hired.
The Navy contracts out the drug screening to an Okinawa firm that flies up a “collector” to take the urine samples, said CDC Drug Program Coordinator Glenda Bennett.
But funds come from a limited pool and for two years, drug-testing money dried up at the end of December, resulting in a hiring freeze, she said. The funding is released at the beginning of the fiscal year, which begins in October.
But the CDC always is looking for ways to speed up the process.
When funds are available for drug testing, Bennett said, computer technology decreases to two weeks the time from collection to results.
The CDC also has found a way to expedite the federal background-check requirement by letting employees undergo a “local” background check while they await the federal results from Washington.
Those passing the local check can work for the CDC — as long as they remain in the line of sight of someone who has already passed their federal check.
Wright put in her CDC application in August and still is “red smocked” — meaning she always must work with someone wearing a “blue smock” — who has finished the check.
“It’s not insulting or anything,” Wright said. “It’s more security for the children.”
On average, it takes from two to four months to get through the process entirely, Hardebeck said.
Far from being a glorified babysitting job, working as a CDC worker offers plenty of personal perks, Wright said. “We’re not just keeping these kids — we actually teach them something,” she said.
But patience is key for all applicants, Wright said. “You have to know that it’s going to take a while.”
Hardebeck said she hopes applicants who have the option of full-time or part-time employment are patient because the vacancies need to be filled, especially with the CDC’s plans to open more rooms in Yokosuka and Ikego.
“This is overseas where parents don’t have a KinderCare down the street,” she said. “We want to provide a service that is educational and nurturing so the parents can do their jobs.”