Joint Base Charleston offers helping hand for parents

Christine Sanchez of Goose Creek holds Daniel, the youngest of her three children. Sanchez said doctor visits can be a struggle when there isn't a place to take the children who don't have appointments.

Christina Elmore

For Christine Sanchez, doctor visits can be a struggle to say the least.

"If you're there trying to get information about one sick child and the other one is talking, you can't listen to the doctor," she said. "It can be very distracting."

At times, the Goose Creek mother finds herself toting all three of her children to appointments simply because there's no one else to watch them.

Parents such as Sanchez who seek medical attention at Joint Base Charleston now have one less thing to worry about with the opening of the Armed Services YMCA Teddy's Child Watch day-care center.

The child-waiting room provides free supervision of healthy children while parents are busy tending to their own medical appointments or those for another child.

"As everybody knows, access to medical care is hugely important," Air Force Col. Richard McComb, commander of Joint Base Charleston, said during the center's grand opening last week. "It's not always just about being close to a facility, but it's having your children and somebody being able to take care of them while you take care of yourself or one of your other little ones."

Teddy's Child Watch at Joint Base Charleston is the seventh program of its kind in the Department of Defense, four of which, like Charleston's, are housed on Air Force bases.

Navy Capt. Michael Landers, Armed Services YMCA national director and chief executive officer, said the center is spreading to more Air Force bases than other military sites largely due to word of mouth.

"Air Force families go from one base to another where there was one (a Teddy's Child Watch center), and they say, 'Why don't we do that here?' ... They try to replicate what they've seen at the other places," he said.

Air Force Col. Consuella Pockett, the 628th Medical Group's commander, sought to bring Teddy's Child Watch to Charleston after using the service in 2005 at California's Travis Air Force Base to care for her then-3-month-old twins.

"My husband was a stay-at-home dad, and when he needed care or one of the kids needed medical care, we really didn't have anybody to leave the children with," she said. "It (Teddy's Child Watch) was just such an awesome thing for our family. It really was just a goal of mine before even leaving Travis -- when I knew I was coming here -- to get this set up for our folks."

Pockett said some parents have had to leave their children in less-than-ideal locations for lack of other child-care options.

"Now they have a child-friendly, safe environment to go so that their parents can get the medical care they need," she said.

Teddy's Child Watch is the result of a $67,000 renovation project to the 628th Medical Group's former immunizations clinic.

The Headquarters Air Mobility Command funded the project, and the Armed Services YMCA donates $25,000 yearly to each Teddy's Watch to cover the cost of part-time employees and supplies.

"I'd love to see one everywhere we can afford to put one," Landers said.

The center can hold up to 12 children at a time, ages 6 weeks to 11 years.

Initially, parents are asked to register children at the 628th Medical Group and provide current copies of their shot records.

Once a child is in the system, reservations can be made over the phone or in person.

Reach Christina Elmore at 937-5908.