What We Know About Military Family Child Care

Family Child Care Program

During the next few months, we’ll share a three-part article series, The Military Family Child Care Program, covering everything military families need to know about the Family Child Care Program.

Our country is facing a national shortage of child care providers, and families are paying the price. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the supply of high quality, affordable child care was insufficient to meet the demand. However, the pandemic made an already bad situation worse. Between February 2020 and October 2022, the country lost nearly 10% of the workforce in the child care industry. [1] For an industry that was already struggling to keep up with the country’s need, this is a staggering loss.

Like other families, military families need access to child care. But as we know, the military is not immune to the national child care shortage. Military installations around the world have child care wait lists that are months, if not years, long.

In May of 2022, the annual median salary [2] for a child care worker in the United States was $28,520. Looking at the fastest growing occupations in the United States, [3] where the median pay for all but one of the occupations is above this median salary, it is easy to see why more people are not necessarily eager to stay or enter in the industry.

For military families, there is a unique child care program.

Family Child Care Program

The earning potential for child care providers who offer care through a Family Child Care (FCC) home can be significantly more than the annual median salary of a child care worker. In an industry that needs more providers, this is a good opportunity for people to not only add capacity to the child care system but also make a good income.

Recently, we have been part of several conversations about FCC providers, and the opportunity for this specific type of care to help provide solutions to two of the military’s family readiness challenges: child care access and military spouse unemployment.

FCC providers care for a small group of children in their own private home, [4] such as a house, apartment, or condo unit. FCC providers can be found on military installations and in the civilian community and have been an important part of the DoD child care system for a long time, but the number of providers has steadily declined. [5]

FCC Program as an Option for Military Families

Military spouse unemployment remains persistently high, and even with a cultural shift to remote work acceptance, it is still incredibly challenging to find and maintain employment as a military spouse, particularly in more remote or isolated duty stations. The discussion about child care and child care providers is multi-layered, and it is important to talk about it in the context of who is usually providing child care labor. Usually, women provide child care labor, and when industries are predominately female, the pay is lower than those that are not. [6]

Over the next few months, we will be bringing you a series of articles that will shed some light on how being an FCC provider may be an employment option to consider as a military spouse.

We want to be very clear. We are not saying that we think being an in-home child care provider through an FCC is what all, or even most, military spouses should do if they are looking for a job. We do, however, want people, particularly military spouses who need or want a job, to understand the business opportunity and earning potential for becoming an FCC provider, the types of certifications and training required, the start-up costs involved, and the ways in which this type of business can move from one assignment to another.

Voice Your Thoughts on the FCC Program

Do you have experience being a child care provider and/or being an FCC provider? Do you know how much FCC providers can make? What would be enough of an incentive to get you to consider becoming a child care provider? Do you think of FCC providers as being business owners? Why or why not?

If you’ve been an FCC provider share your story with us.

By: Meredith Smith, Government Relations Deputy Director

[1] Gittleson, B., & Travers, K. (2022, Oct. 22). Child care industry struggles with shortage of workers: ‘This is unheard of’. ABC News. https://abcnews.go.com/US/child-care-industry-struggles-shortage-workers-unheard/story?id=91701041

[2] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022) Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2022.
U.S. Department of Labor. https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes399011.htm

[3] Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2022) Fastest Growing Occupations. U.S. Department of Labor.

[4] https://childcare.gov/consumer-education/family-child-care-homes

[5] https://childcareta.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/addressing_decreasing_fcc_providers_revised_final.pdf

[6] Mason, J., & Gallagher Robbins, k. (2023, March). Women’s Work Is Undervalued, and It’s Costing Us Billions. National Partnership for Women and Families. https://nationalpartnership.org/wp-content/uploads/2023/04/womens-work-is-undervalued.pdf