Sustain Quality Affordable Child Care
More than 40 percent of service members have children, and the largest cohort of these children is under age five. Unsurprisingly, access to quality, affordable child care is often cited by these families as one of their biggest concerns. For service members, who move frequently, often live far from extended family, and may work long or irregular hours, the challenge of finding and paying for quality child care can be even greater than for their civilian counterparts.
It is not always recognized as such, but child care is a readiness issue. Service members face the same challenges as any other working parent. Without reliable child care, they may find themselves having to miss work, potentially threatening the readiness of an entire unit. In addition, lack of quality, affordable child care can be a barrier to military spouse employment. At a time when most families rely on two incomes to make ends meet, a military spouse’s inability to work due to a lack of child care can have a significant impact on a family’s financial well-being.
Access to quality, affordable child care is not just a “nice-to-have” part of a benefit package. Rather, it is central to service member and family readiness.
We’re pleased that in recent years Congress and the Department of Defense have recognized the importance of child care to military families and have taken steps to make quality child care both more available and more affordable. While many military families benefit from these programs, more needs to be done to ensure that all military children are in safe, high-quality child care settings.
- Ensuring installation Child Development Centers (CDCs) and other installation-based child care programs are fully funded.
- Expansion of the popular fee assistance program. Many military families cannot use installation child care providers, either because of lengthy waiting lists or because they do not live or work near an installation. These families must seek care in their local communities, which is often much more expensive than installation-based care. To help families offset this expense, the Services instituted a fee assistance program – but too many families are unaware of this program or are not eligible for it.
- Encouraging states to adopt the highest standards for safety and quality to ensure that military children across the country are in the safest possible settings. Staff members at DoD child care facilities are subject to extensive background checks and the facilities are regularly inspected. Military children who receive care from community providers deserve the same level of safety and quality.
Legislation + Testimony
In our testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, we asked Congress to ensure adequate funding for military child care programs, including child care fee assistance programs.
Information + Resources
Military families who need child care and don’t have access to an installation CDC may be eligible for fee assistance. Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps families, contact Child Care Aware for additional information.
The Marine Corps has made changes to its fee assistance policy. The updated guidelines are available here.
As of October, 2014 the GSA has taken over management of the Army’s fee assistance program. Army families can click here for more information.
Military families are eligible for free memberships to Sittercity, an online service that helps families find child care providers.