Gerardo Mendez Jr. used three words to describe finding childcare so he could attend his medical appointments at VA North Texas: struggle, hassle and inconvenient.
Mendez, a father of two young children and former U.S. Army combat medic, was running out of child-care options when he talked to his doctor about his issues.
“It was difficult for me to make my appointments because I didn’t have daycare for my kids,” said Gerardo. “I was really struggling.”
Mendez said he asked for appointment times that could make it easier to find a babysitter. That’s when his doctor told him about the Carousel Academy located in the Dallas VA Medical Center.
Originally a pilot program, Carousel Academy is now in its sixth year of serving and relieving stress for many Veterans. The need for drop-in child care was identified when VA conducted a survey to find why Veterans were missing their appointments. Dallas’ VA Medical Center is one of four child-care centers to offer the program to Veterans while they attend appointments and get the care they’ve earned.
U.S. Army Veteran Gerardo Mendez Jr. takes his daughter to the Carousel Academy before going to his appointment at Dallas VA Medical Center.
“This program was designed for Veterans who have problems finding child care and potentially missing their appointments,” said Jeanette Berry, Carousel Academy director. “Our Veterans have an opportunity to call and bring their child here if they have a clinical appointment that can be verified by the VA.”
Veterans who are enrolled in the health care system and have children aged six-weeks to 12-years old can take advantage of the program. They must register to use the center, and a week’s notice is required to ensure the Academy has space availability.
“My daughter enjoys coming here,” said Mendez. “She’s learning to count and the teachers work with her and she loves the crafts and outside play with the other kids.”
Berry explained Carousel Academy is in high demand during the summer months because children are out of school; however, the need for it usually tapers down during the winter months.
“I really enjoy meeting the Veterans and their children,” she said. “I’m so happy that we can assist them with getting their health care.”
VA Medical Centers providing childcare to Veterans:
Jennifer Roy is a public affairs specialist for VA North Texas Health Care System. She is a retired USN Chief Petty Officer, public affairs manager and award-winning photojournalist.