Child Care is More Than a Readiness Issue
It’s no secret that military families experience the same child care issues as their civilian counter-parts--the lack of quality or affordable child care is a problem across the United States. But for military families, the absence of quality, affordable child care can quickly go from an inconvenience to a matter of national security.
Family readiness is essential to our military’s mission readiness. The military family’s ability to maintain a stable home front is imperative for our troops to keep their eyes on the mission. For families with two active duty parents, or those with single service member parents, limited access to child care may make it difficult for them to perform their duties to the best of their abilities.
When a lack of affordable quality child care is factored into the equation, many military families find themselves facing one of three options: pay for lower-quality child care for their children, face financial hardship, or sacrifice sleep. Military families accustomed to maintaining a dual-income household are often financially strained as they move from installation to installation, when child care is unavailable or unaffordable.
Low-quality child care
If staying home with children isn’t an option and a spouse must work to contribute to their household income, many families have no choice but to find childcare within their budget. Typically, the Child Development Centers (CDC) aboard military installations are reasonable, in terms of pricing, as they are largely based on a sliding scale. However, depending on the location, there’s often a lengthy waitlist for childcare. When this happens, military families are forced to make alternative arrangements, which doesn’t always align with the quality standards they may like for their children.
For spouses who are currently working, or are actively seeking employment, child care can quickly become a potential roadblock to remaining career-focused or finding a job. Some spouses end up staying home with their children because they can’t afford the cost of quality child care. Others work anyway and pay an exorbitant amount for child care that either meets, or exceeds, their standards. Many military families have faced significant financial hardships in both of these scenarios.
In an attempt to forgo using child care altogether, some military couples choose to work a staggered schedule to ensure that at least one parent is always home with the children.
Many military families adjust their schedules so both parents can maintain employment, and their family’s income, without sacrificing the peace of mind that comes with knowing their children are well cared for. They may have their peace of mind, but in this case it comes at the price of precious shut-eye.
NMFA will continue to ask Congress to improve access to installation-based child care, increase the availability of part-time care, and ensure military child care programs are adequately funded, to include child care fee assistance.
Maybe we need to stop looking at child care from only a ‘readiness’ standpoint. Maybe it’s time we look at child care as a necessary tool essential to a military family’s quality of life.
What do YOU think?
Posted June 6, 2017