Finding quality care is a priority for any working parent. As a parent in a military family, you have the added challenge of finding child care that can accommodate shifting work schedules, extended hours, and weekend duty. Deployments and frequent permanent change of station (PCS) moves mean that you may face the challenge of making new child care arrangements more often that your civilian friends do.
The Department of Defense (DoD), recognizing the direct link between child care and members' readiness for service, has created a program that is praised for its quality and affordability. The DoD sets clear quality standards for child care and uses an inspection and certification process to ensure that installation programs meet these standards.
The basics - child care options for military families
- Child Development Centers - On your installation, you'll usually find one or more Child Development Centers (CDC), which typically offer care for children from six weeks to five years of age. In most cases, hours are from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, year-round. If you don't need full-time care, some centers offer part-time and hourly care.
- Family Child Care - Family Child Care (FCC) homes, also known as child development homes, may be a good choice if you have a child from infancy to twelve years of age. Providers care for a small group of children in their own home, which may be either on or off the installation. In addition to typical workday hours, FCC homes may provide additional care, such as before- and after-school, nights, and weekends.
- School Age Care - Programs for children age six to twelve are usually open before and after school, on holidays, and for summer day camp. They may use space in a CDC but are more often in Youth Centers or schools. School Age Care (SAC) programs offer a familiar, safe, and fun place for children. Children have opportunities to interact with other kids in an environment with trained staff and age appropriate activities.
Program for youth and teens on the installation
For youth ages twelve to eighteen, many military installations offer activities and classes at a Youth Center or Community Center. Although program availability varies from installation to installation, all programs offer instructional programs, recreation and sports programs, and educational and youth development programs.
Child care off of the installation
Military parents may turn to child care providers in the community when they're wait-listed or live too far away to use an installation CDC. The DoD, through a partnership with Child Care Aware of America, formerly NACCRRA, has two programs to help military parents find quality, affordable care off of the installation:
- Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood helps active duty families find and pay for community-based quality child care when their needs can't be accommodated in installation programs or if they don't live close to the installation.
- Operation: Military Child Care provides financial assistance when mobilized or deployed service members have children enrolled in licensed or legally operating community-based child care programs. They may be activated members of the Guard or Reserve, or active duty service members whose children are living with a parent or guardian in a location that's not near a military installation.
To learn more about these programs and to apply for fee-assistance, visit the Child Care Aware of America website.
Fees for military child care
The amount a family pays for CDC and SAC services is determined by the family's income level. Because fees may change from year to year, be sure to ask for a current fee schedule.
How to find child care
Your installation CDC can provide information on its programs, as well as FCC and SAC options. For contact information, visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS. This directory is especially useful when you know you'll be moving and want to find out about child care at the new installation. You can also look into these other resources:
- Installation Resource and Referral services. When you're on a waiting list but need child care immediately, the Resource and Referral (R&R) office can help you find alternative care off the installation. And if you're overseas, the R&R can help you find local solutions and make arrangements.
- Civilian resource and referral agencies. Military parents can also use community-based resources to help them find child care in their communities. Local Child Care Resource and Referral (CCR&R) agencies are usually part of statewide networks of agencies that help working parents find child care no matter where they're located. You can find the CCR&R that serves your area by going to Child Care Aware of America's website or by calling 1-800-424-2246.
Whether you're looking for child care on or off the installation, there's no substitute for meeting and talking with any provider you're considering. Knowing your child care options will help make your child care decision an easier one.