Navigating The Military Child Care Challenge

by Christine Maxwell, Guest Contributor

For military spouses seeking employment outside the home, it’s the proverbial question.

Do you find a job and then find child care or do you find child care and then find a job?

On one hand, it’s difficult to interview for a job when you’re brand new to a military installation and you don’t have child care. Conversely, paying for child care before you find your new job is financially stressful. Whatever you decide to do, you always want the best possible care for your child.

Whether you’re about to be a first-time parent, PCSing to a new base or adding a new player(s) to your team, finding child care is often one of the most stressful aspects of parenthood for military families. Frequent moves, deployments and breaks in employment due to above mentioned frequent moves are added stressors for military families.

However, there are 2 websites that you absolutely need to know about that will help you find quality and affordable child care to fit your family’s unique needs. Here are the most popular child care options available to military families.

You Need Child Care, You Need Options

If you’re seeking child care at your military installation, you can choose from a military-operated Child Development Center (CDC), home-based Family Child Care (FCC), School-age Care Programs (SAC), or subsidized (yes, I said subsidized!) off-installation care at a civilian CDC. Full-day, part-time and drop-in care is available for 6-week old babies through school-age children that only need before and after school care.

There are several great child care options, but how do you find the programs available to you at your military installation?

Military-Operated & Military-Approved Child Care

The fastest and easiest way to find all the information you need to know about military-operated or military-approved child care is to navigate to the website MilitaryChildCare.com. This secure Department of Defense (DoD) website was launched in 2015 and finished its roll-out in June 2017. It’s a one-stop shop for your military child care-related search process.

At MilitaryChildCare.com, you can create a profile that you can easily update as your family and location changes. Your profile allows you to search and request child care options and update requests or change the dates that care is needed.

Gone are the days of frustrating searches on out-of-date DoD websites as you scramble to find all your child care options for your installation.

Currently, there are more than 200 installations that are actively using MilitaryChildCare.com both domestically and abroad.

Subsidized Off-Installation Care For Military Families

If you don’t have access to child care at a military installation due to remote assignments or long wait lists, parents have the option to pursue off-installation child care. Child Care Aware of America is a program that assists over 10,000 military families annually in finding and subsidizing accredited off-installation child care. Since off-installation child care is often more expensive than military child care programs, Child Care Aware helps alleviate this burden by subsidizing child care costs.

Once approved, families usually pay the equivalent of what they would pay for DoD child care. Registration fees are often covered too. All 4 military services have subsidy programs under the Child Care Aware of America umbrella. Contact Child Care Aware to find out more information on eligibility specific to your service. Currently, Child Care Aware of America is only a domestic program.

Military Child Care Is A Work In Progress

Although the accessibility and affordability of child care for military families has come a long way, we still have so much work to do. The wait lists for child care are always long, much longer than the notice that families receive when PCS orders are cut. This leaves many families in the lurch for child care, especially at remote installations where military-run child care programs are the only option and wait lists are long.

At many installations, CDC wait lists are over a year.

By the time you find your child a spot, you might as well get ready to prepare to PCS again.

For all the unique challenges military families face with finding high quality and timely child care, the military community is still leaps and bounds ahead of the general population’s child care choices. The military offers its employees an excellent range of universally accredited, subsidized and on-site options for child care and that’s more than most civilian families could imagine.

What are your child care challenges? Share your concerns in the comments section. 

Christine MaxwellChristine Maxwell is an Army wife and toddler mom. She works as a Budget Manager in Higher Education and also manages HerMoneyMoves, a blog about personal finances, career and military family life geared toward military spouses and their families.

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