Jo Doan has been rocking babies to sleep, read stories and changed approximately 336,000 diapers in the past 35 years while working as a caregiver at White Sand Missile Range’s Child Development Center. At the end of December, she will rock her last WSMR baby to sleep as she plans to retire in the local area.
“I came to WSMR more than 35 years ago as a military wife, and I started working at the bowling center on post, but as soon as there was an opening at the CDC I applied because I just love kids,” Doan said, who is the mother of three boys who were all enrolled in the WSMR CDC for care several years ago.
Doan said the reason she stayed so long is because she loves the kids, especially the infants, which include six week olds to 18 month olds.
“When moms drop off their brand new baby to me, I hold them tight and it takes about a week to make a connection. The sooner that connection happens the better because it puts new moms at ease with leaving their precious babies with me,” she said.
After three and a half decades of caring for children, Doan says it is very common for her to be out and about in the local area and have people walk up who tell her that she watched them as a baby or toddler. Most of these children are now in high school, college, or are parents themselves.
“It is really great to see where these children have ended up and to know that I was a part of their lives,” she said. “Kids are our future, and I just love that I am part of the early process of watching and helping them grow up to be amazing.”
Although there is a lot that Doan will miss about her job, one thing she won’t miss are the monthly Saturday training sessions where CDC caregivers are trained on everything from fire prevention, safety, child development, first aid, CPR, medicine dispatch , observation and milestones.
“A lot of people don’t realize how much training it takes to be a CDC caregiver,” Doan said. “We are constantly learning and being inspected.”
WSMR Garrison Commander Brian Michelson said that the CDC is the most inspected office on post with an average of 61 inspections per year.
“Our caregivers are analyzed under a microscope to ensure the safety of our children,” he said. “Everything from hand-washing techniques to sunscreen application is scrutinized. Every time I walk through the CDC and see caregivers making rooms full of infants and toddlers smile, I realize that it takes special people to work in the CDC who really do it because they love being around children.”
But the children are not the only reason that Doan has stayed for 35 years, she said the staff at the CDC is like a second family to her.
“The people I work with are just the best. They make my birthday special each year. We participate in Secret Santa for the holidays. It is just wonderful to work in a place with people you can truly call your friends,” she said.
Doan concluded the interview by saying that she wanted to thank everyone she worked with at the CDC, past and present, for their friendship.
Doan plans to spend her retirement with her five grandchildren who range in age from 4 to 11 years old.