The list of decisions to make as a parent is ever-growing, and on top of almost every working parent’s list is child care. Selecting the best fit, especially for service member families, means taking a deep dive into the pros and cons of every option with military precision. We’re covering far beyond the basics, giving you a list of options paired with an equally important list of factors to determine what military child care options are best for your family.
Child Development Centers (CDC)
Child care facilities located on military installations are commonly known as CDCs. These Child Development Center (CDC) programs offer full, half or partial daycare for children of DoD and military personnel. Facilities run similarly throughout the world. However, some centers will offer extended hours or additional options to meet demand. Fort Jackson, for example, has the Army’s only 24/7 child care facility, as compared to the Navy’s numerous 24-hour locations. Rates will vary depending on the total family income as well as the installation itself.
- How long is your waitlist?
- What is your family priority status if both spouses work?
- Check with your local CDC to get accurate hours and rates.
- Although 24/7 options exist, they are not available for all users.
- Does the facility offer parents a “nanny cam” option to see their children via a secure video link?
Military Child Care In Your Neighborhood (MCCYN)
MCCYN is one of the newest additions from the Department of Defense (DoD). Sometimes referred to by other acronyms, the program is designed to provide off-installation service options just as the name suggests. These child care facilities meet a list of standards and maintain national accreditation.
Care is available for children ages six weeks to 12 years and is offered to military families at a reduced rate comparable to that of what may be offered through your local military installation.
- Facility operating hours, which may or may not work well with a military schedule.
- Commuting time, as not all locations are nearby.
- Cancellation policies for inclement weather, natural disasters or other situations where the mission will continue, but civilian operations may be shut down.
Family Child Care (FCC)
The Family Child Care option offers in-home child care with greater flexibility and options for military families than most traditional care facilities. The FCC program is on average 15% less expensive than traditional care found in the local civilian community. The program requires extensive checks for qualification and ongoing compliance with standards.
Individual care providers operate on military installations and in approved locations off-installation. These services can offer care during off-hours, on weekends or on holidays. Another benefit with this option is that siblings who range in ages can stay together in one place, making the pick-up, drop off and everything in-between streamlined for busy parents.
- Is this option available at your duty station? Not every duty station offers this program.
- Ensure any person offering in-home child care is a vetted participant in the FCC program.
- Determine if the care provider’s methods match with your parenting philosophy.
- Ask about scenarios such as working with sports schedules, sick care, or other situations in which coordination may be required.
Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) Respite Care
The EFMP respite care is currently offered to Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force families in a limited capacity. Currently, care is offered to families up to 40 hours per month for Navy and Air Force and 25 hours for Army and 20 hours per month for Marine Corps families. This care is either provided in-home or at a care facility. Enrollment in the EFMP program is a requirement. Families are offered care at no cost and age ranges from birth to 18 years of age for dependent eligibility.
Note: The EFM Respite Care program is not an entitlement program and is subject to the availability of funds through your respective branch of service.
- Your child’s individual needs, routines, preferences and schedule.
- How will the caregiver support any siblings during the in-home care hours?
- Are there any waitlists?
- What does scheduling care look like at this duty station?
School Age Services (SAS) programs
SAS or SAC (School Age Care) programs offer additional programming before or after traditional school hours as well as holiday breaks and summer camp options. These care options may be offered at school locations, on military installations at Child and Youth Services (CYS) facilities, or are found off-installation via community sports or aftercare options like the YMCA or Boys and Girls Clubs. Program offerings will range from full, partial, seasonal or extended hours depending on whether or not the school is in session.
Care is available from ages 6-12. This is the Army SAS webpage, but the other services offer similar programs.
- Your child’s interests and whether SAS program offerings would be of interest.
- Hours of operation before or after school and if this will meet the needs of your work schedule.
- Seasonal program offerings or overlapping sports seasons (if applicable).
Youth Centers offer care options for older children (grades six-12) which include transportation from schools to the facility. Center offerings may vary but typically include enriching courses (like babysitting), recreation centers, homework help, computer labs, game rooms and fitness centers.
- Your child’s extracurricular schedules or commitments (think transportation).
- Electronic policies and whether they suit your family’s standards or expectations.
New Financial Assistance Available for Army Families
The Army Emergency Relief (AER) program as of February 2020 is now offering eligible families up to $1,500 to offset out-of-pocket expenses incurred when finding child care off-post during and directly after a PCS. Program participants will have the opportunity to meet with qualified financial experts to help budget for new child care costs in areas where expenses are higher than the national average.
Where to Get More Information
You can also visit MilitaryChildCare.com, a Department of Defense website that helps families in all branches of the military find and apply for military-operated child care anywhere in the world. Programs highlighted on the MilitaryChildCare website include full-time and part-time care child care options, child care at dedicated child care facilities or home-based child care programs, before and after-school child care and summer and holiday camps.
Child Care Aware of America is another organization that manages several programs for the military. Military families may be eligible for fee assistance.
While the above list is comprehensive, it does not cover or include personal child care options such as au pairs, nannies or extended family member care, which offer their own sets of benefits and complications.