Child Care is More Than a Readiness Issue

Childcare 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. 

Financial Hardship

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.

Sacrificing Sleep

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

Comments

From: Mia on: June 20, 2017
Most of us have experienced the same issue Vicky, where we have toddlers and a newborn that demand our care and we are just struggling to keep our sanity. When I was active duty with my husband, I had to take my oldest at the time to my parents (states away) as my husband was deployed, I was on night shift and couldn't find a babysitter that could fulfill those hours. There are playgroups, other military spouses, programs, that can help you for those few hours to collect your bearings. Mil-to-mil, single parents, and working/seeking education parents should always have a higher priority. You'll be fine, we always get through the challenges and learn from them. Military spouses are indeed important, but keep in mind that when you are not seeking higher education or employment, you need to find other means for care more creatively.
From: Vicky on: June 12, 2017
In response to Jill: I agree to a point. I personally know a number of non-working stay-at-home parents who send their children to the CDC for at least a few hours every day because they need the break or because they have very young children and send the older ones because it allows them to give better care to those who need it more. As a part time work from home parent (and even if I wasn't, I'd need a break too) whose husband is currently deployed, I have considered the CDC for our son because there are some days when my ability to be a good parent is severely compromised because I haven't had a break in weeks. Yes, those in single parent households or dual military households should (and do) get priority but do we just knock off those who are single military with a non-working spouse from a waiting list simply because their situation doesn't SEEM as bad as someone else's? We don't know what their home situation is like or how many kids they have at home that they aren't trying to send to the CDC. Babysitting is very expensive and in a lot of cases, families are new to an area because of a recent PCS and don't have access to a reliable and trustworthy babysitter. You seem to assume that parents in my (or a similar) situation are lazy. Try having a toddler running rampant in your house for weeks on end while you have a newborn and see if you wouldn't want some structured, peer to peer time for your toddler so you can be sane for a few hours and be a better parent when said toddler returns. The mission readiness of every military member matters and that includes their families.
From: Mia on: June 8, 2017
Jill made a great point as many spaces are being given to families that shouldn't have priority over those that are employed/attending school full-time, etc. There were many times I had to either split up my children between different facilities since these slots were taken so I could attend class all while I knew spouses who didn't have a crucial need to have their children enrolled took up the slots. Thanks Jill for putting that out there. I'm currently writing my master's thesis on the problem with unemployment and underemployment that is affecting military spouses and accessible childcare is going to be a major culprit I intend on addressing in that paper.
From: Jill on: June 6, 2017
As a previous CYSS/CYP Director I would recommend that local installations take a good long look at all the non-working, non-student spouses who have children enrolled in full time care. These spaces should be going to single and dual military families who truly need these spaces to be mission ready instead of spouses who want their free time and don't want to take care of their kids.
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