Misawa’s Child and Youth Program: PACAF’s Best Child Care

  • Published
  • By U.S. Air Force Story and Photo by Airman 1st Class Leon Redfern
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) awarded the Misawa Air Base Child and Youth Program (CYP) with the Child and Youth Services Flight of Year; recognizing their accomplishments that uniquely contributed to readiness of the Air Force’s most important asset – its Airmen.

Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic this past year, Misawa Air Base was the only CYP in all of PACAF that continued full operations to provide care to military members. In addition, the Misawa CYP partnered with the Department of Defense Education Activity to incorporate distance learning policies when schools on base were temporarily closed.

“The staff is the real reason we were able to be acknowledged by PACAF,” said Dena Smith, the Cheli School-Age Care (SAC) coordinator. “They worked overtime through stressors during the entire pandemic, displaying their deep care and support of military children and families on base.”

The Misawa CYP doubled in staff allowing more personnel to provide care to military members and reduce waiting lists by 80 percent.

“Providing care and meeting needs throughout the pandemic was a huge challenge at first,” Smith said. “We understood that service members were still going to work, and they needed a safe place to put their children.”

Smith explained that each program's ability to adapt to the new situation and to provide support to military members and their families on base helped gain the award and recognition from PACAF. 

“Children here are learning how to adapt to changes in the world,” said Marilyn Mason, the Yoiko Child Development Center (CDC) director. “We're helping them build multiple skill sets so they can easily move on and succeed.”

The Misawa CYP consists of five separate sections - Yoiko CDC, Cheli SAC, Family Child Care, Lunney Youth Center and Misawa Teen Center - providing care for children on Misawa Air Base while their military parents maintain readiness to support joint air, space and cyberspace capabilities safeguarding the Indo-Pacific region.