DoD Expands Community-based Child Care Options

The Defense Department will launch an initiative early next year aimed at expanding the quality and quantity of community-based child care options for geographically dispersed reserve component and active-duty families and for families facing long waits for on-base care.

Through the initiative, the Department of Defense (DoD) will work with federal agencies, state officials and child care centers and programs to raise the quality of care within communities, which should translate to an increased child care capacity for military families. The initiative will be introduced as a two-year pilot program in 13 states that share the same “quest for quality” as the DoD.

The initiative has been in the works for several years and arose out of an evident need. When seeking more child care options for Guard and Reserve families, DoD officials conducted an analysis of the quality of licensing requirements across the nation and found a lack of nationally accredited care and some “frightening” standards.

According to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, just 8 to 10 percent of state child development facilities are accredited. Within the DoD, however, 98 percent of DoD child development programs are accredited. A lack of community-based care particularly impacts Guard and Reserve families, who typically are geographically separated from on-base care centers.

Through the initiative, DoD officials will share lessons learned from the military child care system and also offer states support to improve the quality of the child care standards and oversight. The department will leverage its Joint Family Support Assistance Program teams –- which include a child and youth behavior specialist and Military OneSource consultant -– as one of many state partners interested in improving quality.

The department also will hire a state child care liaison who will work with state agencies, the state’s Early Childhood Council, Health and Human Services, Head Start and the licensing bureau. The liaisons also will help to identify providers -- including schools, recreation programs and home-based care programs -- willing to take the steps needed to improve their quality. From there, the department will provide technical and training assistance.

By doing so, there’s an added benefit. Care not only is improved for military families, but for all children within the program. Those programs that meet the DoD’s standards will be added to the list of approved providers, and the department will buy down the cost of care for military families.

Officials will track quality improvements through an evaluation of child care licensing standards and the state quality rating and improvement system. Once the two-year pilot program is over, officials will evaluate its success and lessons learned.

Officials had specific criteria in mind when selecting the 13 states for the pilot program. They chose some states based on the lack of an active-duty installation, such as Vermont and Indiana, and others for their deployment impact and existing quality improvement rating systems. The 13 states selected to participate are Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Vermont, and Washington.

The National Military Family Association applauds the Department of Defense for their innovative approach to raising child care standards throughout the states. Our Association has been concerned about child care quality standards as states struggle with their budgets and we are pleased DoD is working proactively to address the issue.

(Source: http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=62034)

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