Child Care Options for Military Families
When you and your spouse are dealing with work schedules that are all over the place, including weekend duty, late hours and the dreaded deployments, then you need quality child care that is affordable. No matter your situation, there are options for you. Whether it’s on the installation or off, you can find child care that is right for your family.
Of course, it’s easier said than done. Especially when dealing with a new town, city, or installation where you don’t know anyone. You need someone you can trust completely to care for your little loved one and who will take care of them as if they were their own.
Thankfully, the Department of Defense uses a clear certification system that includes unannounced inspections to make sure your children are cared for properly and that the programs are meeting the highest standards possible.
Parent Central Services office will provide you with names, addresses, and phone numbers of child care providers both on and off base. This can be a time-consuming process. And when you’ve just arrived, unpacking, and having to sort out other things, the task of finding child care can seem daunting.
Recently, though, the Department of Defense has created an online portal at militarychildcare.com. You enter your location and find a list of child care providers that also includes centers off installation. This is especially welcome when you’re halfway around the world and need information prior to arrival at your new installation.
In addition to those options, there are a few others we’ll take a look at.
Child development centers are options for your child from six weeks up to five years old. Most are open Monday through Friday with a schedule that is year-round. Some offer part-time and even hourly care, which can be great for those surprise schedule changes. Cost is a sliding scale based on your income (or rank of the service member).
Child care homes, or child development homes, offer infant care and children care up to the age of 12. These are often small groups of children in the home. Besides offering typical hours, some may provide you with night and weekends child care.
For children in school, ages 6-12, there are care programs that cater to after school, holidays, and summertime. Usually you’ll find these programs in youth centers and schools, and once again fees are based on your income (or rank of the service member).
With any of these programs, always make sure to visit to see how clean and organized everything is: a well-run program will show. You’ll be able to speak to child care attendants and hopefully the director.
If you’re living off installation or are waiting for child care on the installation, you still have options.
For active-duty Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corp families, you’ll find that Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood is an immense help. They find and pay for community based care when on installation options are not available to you. In addition, for those Army families, you can get in touch with the Army Fee Assistance program.
If you are mobilized or deployed, Operation: Military Child Care helps pay for your child care, too.
Down below, you’ll find more information on resources for off installation child care. It’s important to do your research and find licensed providers that can be trusted and are well-ran. An in person visit, of course, is necessary and you’ll want to get a feel for yourself by seeing how clean everything is and how the program is running.
Once again, you can call your installations Child Development Center, Parent Central Offices, or visit militarychildcare.com.
Are there other resources out there? Absolutely. Maybe you’re not finding what you’re looking for, so check out the Installation Resources and Referral services, which can also help in finding child care (this is especially helpful for immediate care if you find yourself on a waiting list). They can help you with information when you’re overseas.
Generally, there are resources for finding childcare in your area. You can check out Child Care Aware of America, a statewide network serving military families. They have a website and a toll-free number (800-424-2246).
Child Care Aware of America serves over 10,000 military children each and every year. If you go to their website, you’ll find options for each branch of service. Founded in 1987, the service is a national membership-based nonprofit that works toward affordable and accessible child care that is based on development and learning. They advocate for positive child care policies that improve the lives of children and their families. They work with over 500 state and local child care agencies that assist over 860,000 service families a year.
At Child Care Aware’s excellent website, you can find articles on early learning and choosing a provider, which is very helpful in sorting out the options. There are also sections that detail programs offered, fee assistance and respite, and details of their advocacy and public policy efforts. Put together, it’s an excellent resource for military families looking for quality child care.
Finally, daycare.com is a commercial website (not affiliated with the Department of Defense) that has a list of child care providers. While not extensive, it can be a useful resource for licensed daycares. It also has a section that details each state’s requirements for licensing, so do your homework and read up as laws vary state to state.
A quick word about daycares: make sure to do a quick, unannounced visit (most daycares won’t mind). While you probably won’t be able to meet the director, you can get a good idea of how clean, safe, and well-run the facility is by doing this.
While searching for quality child care seems like a daunting task, the resources listed here (particularily Child Care Aware and militarychildcare.com) can help enormously. This is especially needed when you are overseas and moving quickly. You can get a head’s up on your task by spending a few hours researching and requesting information from these excellent online resources.
As always, trust your gut when it comes to child care because in the end, mom and dad are always right.