The Foreign Service Journal - May 2014 - page 58

MAY 2014
AFSAAdvocates for Foreign Service Child Care Options
One of AFSA’s five strategic
goals is working to imple-
ment policies that improve
the quality of employees’
work and family life. For
some, that means improving
available child care options in
Washington, D.C.
State facilitates child
care through three separate
contract agreements at FSI,
SA-1 (Diplotots) and the
soon-to-be-opened SA-17
(Diplotots Too). Waiting lists
range from 80-120 children
(approximately nine months
to one year) at FSI to 500-
800 children (2.5 to 3 years)
at SA-1. Top priority at FSI is
given to children of Foreign
Service employees assigned
to training; at SA-1 priority
is given to the siblings of an
already enrolled child.
Identifying private child
care facilities in the Washing-
ton metro area can be very
challenging, and many cen-
ters have average wait times
of two to three years (some-
times longer than a typical
domestic assignment).
Many employees with small
children who cannot get into
a center ultimately choose
to hire or find a nanny-share
However, both options are
costly and take a lot of time
to find and arrange. Employ-
ees may offset some of their
child care costs by participat-
ing in the department’s child
care subsidy program.
Last year, AFSA expressed
concern about child care
procedures and policies
at department-supported
centers that appear to dis-
advantage employees who
are required to move every
few years and those with only
one child.
In several letters to the
department and Diplotots,
we proposed that instead of
relying solely on the waitlist,
an initial allocation of SA-17
child care spots also be
made available on a modi-
fied lottery basis. Such a
lottery would ensure that all
employees, wherever and
in whatever status, have an
equal chance of securing a
spot for their child.
In addition, we suggested
that the SA-1 and FSI waitlists
be online and worldwide-
available so that FS mem-
bers posted overseas have
access to them, and that they
provide equal opportunity
to single-child and multi-
children families.
Ultimately, the depart-
ment and Diplotots decided
not to change their process
when opening the new center
at SA-17, arguing that the sib-
ling preference and waitlist
were standard practice in
D.C. AFSA maintains that our
transient, international FS
personnel system points to
the need for a more custom-
ized solution.
AFSA will continue to
advocate for a preference
category system that fairly
addresses the transient
nature of Foreign Service
families of all sizes, and for
online, worldwide-available
waitlists for department-
supported centers. And we
will continue to advocate for
additional child care options,
whether through partnership
with third-party providers
such as or inclu-
sion in facility expansion
The department recently
provided additional resources
for child care, including a
pilot program for emer-
gency backup care cover-
ing domestic and overseas
locations. AFSA will support
making this pilot permanent
if employees find it useful.
We want to hear from you
about your experience with
child care. How did the exist-
ing process work for you?
What ideas or suggestions
do you have for improving
the employee child care
experience? Please send us
your feedback at afsa@state.
–Matthew Asada, AFSA
State Vice President
Last year, AFSA expressed concern about
child care procedures and policies at
department-supported centers that
appear to disadvantage employees who
are required to move every few years and
those with only one child.
On March 20,
AFSA Execu-
tive Director
Ian Houston
spoke to a
group of
students at
BrighamYoung University’s David M. Kennedy Center
for International Studies. He discussed AFSA, the For-
eign Service career, development and diplomacy as a
part of AFSA’s effort to engage students and young pro-
fessionals in exploring the Foreign Service as a career
choice. He also met with officers of the school’s Foreign
Service Student Organization, and provided advice to
students who are interested in international careers.
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