Child Care Assistance Programs for Military Families
The child care needs of military families can be more complicated than those of their civilian peers, due largely in part to scheduling conflicts which can arise as the result of a deployment or assignment.
For military families in which both parents are part of the workforce, shouldering the financial burden can also present an issue which must be considered. To help offset child care costs for these families, child care assistance programs can be of great value.
How Military Families Can Learn More About Child Care Assistance Programs
There are several programs which offer assistance to the families of deployed or active duty soldiers. Depending on the branch of the military in which one or both parents serves, these programs may vary.
- Army – Children of active duty and Reserve soldiers who do not have access to an on-installation child care service may be eligible for Army fee assistance programs to defray the costs of full-time child care. These programs provide care for children from birth through twelve years of age for eligible Service Members whose spouse is enrolled in school or working at least sixteen hours per week. Spouses who are currently in school must be enrolled for at least six undergraduate credit hours or three graduate credit hours for some programs. There are also temporary assistance programs which are offered to families in which one spouse is Active Duty and the other is seeking employment. Eligible Service Members include Active Duty, Guard and Reserve soldiers who have been activated, Department of the Army Civilians and those assigned to Joint Base Installations, the survivors of fallen soldiers and families of Wounded Warriors assigned to a Warriors in Transition Unit/Battalion, or Special Operations Command.
- Marine Corps – Spouses of Active Duty Marines who are employed at least thirty-five hours per week or enrolled in school full time may be eligible for off-base subsidy child care programs. Spouses who are assigned as the non-medical attendant for a Wounded Warrior are also eligible, and considerations may be made for those who are employed part-time while also pursuing higher education part-time. Children for whom assistance is sought mus live with an active duty Marine, except during deployment or extenuating circumstances, and geographically dispersed Marine families must be living outside of a fifteen-mile radius of a USMC installation with a child development program.
- Navy – Child care fee assistance programs for Navy families apply to both married parents and unmarried parents who live within the same household. Families of Active Duty Sailors who do not have access to child care facilities on their installation may be eligible for fee assistance if they meet certain criteria. For families who live withing fifteen miles or a twenty minute average commute time to on-installation child care facilities must be on a wait-list for those programs in order to apply for fee assistance. Any family who has denied care through base-sponsored Child Development Centers in a calendar year will not be eligible for fee assistance, and off-base childcare providers must meet high quality standards.
- Air Force – United States Air Force families have access to child care fee assistance programs for which they may be eligible, contingent upon meeting specified criteria. This includes being currently wait-listed for on-installation care if the family lives within fifteen miles or twenty minutes of an on-base child development center. Families who have turned down an available on-installation child care enrollment slot in the last twelve months will not be eligible for some programs.
Understanding Child Care Assistance for Military Families
There are two primary programs through which military families can seek child care assistance: Operation Military Child Care (OMCC) or Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood (MCCYN). These programs are currently offered to all branches of Active Duty service, and can offset costs for child care extended through eligible providers. These child care providers will need to be inspected annually by a state licensing agency and be capable of meeting high standards of excellence as established by the military. These programs are sponsored by the Department of Defense, and are managed by Child Care Aware, the organization formerly known as NACCRRA. They are created to provide access to quality child care for families who do not currently have access to DoD programs on their installation. These civilian centers must be accredited and are held to the same standards required of those on any installation.
Military families can take advantage of these high-quality civilian programs at comparable cost to services offered on an installation through MCCYN, OMCC and some branch-specific programs. By exploring the child care fee assistance programs offered through DoD funding, families of Active Duty service members can obtain quality care for their children without exceeding their household budgets.