December 21, 2012

Panetta orders review of child care hiring practices

WASHINGTON (AFNS) — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta has ordered a review of hiring practices at Defense Department child development centers.

Army officials announced yesterday an immediate investigation into hiring procedures at its child development centers nationwide after identifying potential problems with security background investigations for some CDC employees at Fort Myer, Va.

“Secretary Panetta fully supports this review by the Army and has directed each of the services to conduct a similar review of hiring practices at all DOD child development centers,” said Pentagon Press Secretary George Little.

In ordering the review, Panetta emphasized the importance of safety.

“Military children are precious members of our DOD family,” he said. “As a department, protecting our service members and their families is paramount. That includes doing everything we can to provide for the safety of children attending CDCs throughout the department, and ensuring they are provided with the highest-quality care by dedicated professionals.

“We owe nothing less to the members of our DOD family who have sacrificed so much for this department and this nation,” he added.

The Army’s Installation Management Command replaced the CDC’s management team at Fort Myer in October when concerns were raised about facility leadership, officials said in announcing the Army review. A subsequent review found background issues with some employees, not all of whom were directly responsible for child care, officials said.

“Out of an abundance of caution, we removed those employees and temporarily closed the facility,” said Army Col. Fern Sumpter, the garrison commander at Fort Myer, adding that children enrolled at the center were moved to another Fort Myer center.

“An investigation was ordered to determine whether background checks were properly done at the time these employees were hired, and whether required procedures were followed. That investigation has just begun,” Sumpter said.

Following the initial findings at Fort Myer, Army Secretary John M. McHugh directed a review of management and procedures at all Army child care centers and a review of compliance with those policies and procedures.

“It’s a fundamental responsibility to ensure the highest quality of care for the children of our men and women in uniform, many of whom rely on us to care for their children while deployed,” he said. “These initial findings are not only troubling, they are unacceptable, and we will make certain that adequate policies and procedures are in place, and that they are strictly followed and fully enforced.”

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