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"A slap in the face" is how one Katterbach Child and Youth Services worker described a recent decision to strip on-post child-care workers, whose spouses are deployed, of one of two discounts they had received for care of their own children.

Katterbach CYS workers complained this week about an Installation Management Command-Europe decision that bars them from claiming two discounts on care for their children.

According to IMCOM-E spokesman Ken White, the Department of the Army last July authorized a 20 percent child-care fee reduction per child for families of personnel deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. IMCOM-E also had a standardized staff fee reduction of 20 percent. This year the Army Family Covenant extended the 20 percent fee reduction to all families of deployed personnel, he said.

"So by deduction you can see that some CYS employees had by coincidence benefited from both a ‘deployed status’ reduction and a ‘employee status’ reduction, though that was never the intent," White said.

Katterbach Child Development Center worker Shannon Kinkle said most Katterbach CDC staff received both discounts until March, when they were told they could receive only one discount.

"It has left people feeling they are not valued as an employee just because my spouse is deployed," said Kinkle, whose husband, Spc. Christopher Kinkle, is deployed to Iraq with the 3rd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment.

The loss of the staff discount will hurt efforts to recruit child-care workers, Shannon Kinkle said.

American Forces Network radio commercials this week are urging people to apply for child-care jobs to meet a critical shortage of such staff in Europe. At Grafenwöhr, for example, the garrison is seeking more than 80 employees to meet the surging demand for child care.

"It is not so much about the money, but it has taken a toll on morale of the staff. It is a retention issue," Shannon Kinkle said.

Even with the discount, it costs Kinkle $450 out of each paycheck to pay for child care for her two children, Dylan, 2, and Zachary, 1, she said.

Another Katterbach CDC worker, Jennifer Messervy, whose husband, Staff Sgt. Edward Messervy, is deployed to Iraq with 5th Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, said staff members have taken on extended hours, Saturday hours and more children while soldiers are downrange.

"We’ve done whatever the community needs and to have this taken away from us is like a big slap in the face," said Messervy, whose two children, Emma, 5, and Rileigh, 3, are in full-time care.

White said CYS employees with deployed spouses have the choice of opting for the deployed status or the employee status discount, weighing the benefits of each.

"IMCOM-Europe believes this is a win-win, as the existing policy fairly and effectively supports families of deployed soldiers for the unique hardships they undergo, while at the same time allows the Army to reward CYS staff with comparable fee reductions for their sacrifices and contributions in accomplishing the critical child-care mission," he said.

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Seth Robson is a Tokyo-based reporter who has been with Stars and Stripes since 2003. He has been stationed in Japan, South Korea and Germany, with frequent assignments to Iraq, Afghanistan, Haiti, Australia and the Philippines.

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