The Department of Defense (DoD) is working to alleviate the shortage of child care through a number of channels. Legislation has increased the number of spaces available over the past few years. New construction projects on installations and partnerships with respected partners “outside the gate” increase a military family’s chance of success in their search for quality care. The trick is knowing what these resources are and where to find them.

When military families think of child care, they frequently consider only the Child Development Center (CDC) on the installation. Currently, DoD operates 800 Child Development Centers worldwide, caring for military and DoD civilian children. Full-day, part-day and hourly care in these centers generally is available for children ages six weeks to 12 years.

Fees are subsidized by DoD and calculated on a tiered scale based on total family income. Military CDCs have become the industry standard of excellence, and nearly 93 percent are accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

The convenience and quality of installation centers has resulted in wait lists at most locations. Wait lists are managed at the installation and are based upon local policies determining priority of care. When moving to a new duty station, families desiring care at the Child Development Center should expect to make alternate child care arrangements until a CDC space opens.

Family Child Care, School-age Care

DoD also operates Family Child Care (FCC) programs, which provide in-home care by installation-certified providers. The FCC program recently was expanded to include military families living in civilian communities; previously, FCC providers were required to operate on base or from government-leased housing. All FCC providers complete comprehensive background checks, are required to obtain licensure, and receive training and support through the local Child and Youth Programs Office. Family Child Care providers also are encouraged to complete accreditation through the National Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC).

Many Family Child Care providers are willing to fill the need for overnight or evening child care requirements that cannot be met by the traditional day care center model. FCC providers are self-employed and set their own rates for care. Family Child Care can provide an ideal solution for families who prefer to keep their children in a home environment.

DoD School-age Care (SAC) programs provide care for school-age children age six to 12. These programs complement the regular school schedule and operate before and after school as well as on school holidays and summer break. SAC programs generally provide transportation to and from the school or operate in school facilities. School-age Care programs focus on providing safe, age-appropriate activities while promoting the cognitive, social, emotional and physical development of children. SAC programs are accredited by the National AfterSchool Association.

Fees for School-age Care are set by DoD on a tiered scale based on total family income. Information about FCC and SAC programs in your neighborhood is available through your local Child and Youth Services Office.

Beyond On-Base Care

DoD has partnered with contract agencies to provide additional child care options. Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood and Operation: Military Child Care are programs sponsored by DoD and managed by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA). These programs are designed to assist military families who do not have access to DoD Child Development programs in finding and paying for affordable child care in their local communities.

The goal of Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood is to bring local child care fees in line with the fee scale established by DoD for CDC programs. NACCRRA provides enhanced referrals to participating local high-quality civilian care centers and provides fee assistance paid directly to civilian centers for military children enrolled in the program. Participating civilian centers must meet the same standards required of installation centers and must be accredited by national accrediting bodies such as NAEYC, National Early Childhood Program Accreditation (NECPA), and the National Association of Child Care Professionals (NACCP). The program is open to active duty families that cannot obtain care on a military installation or are assigned to remote locations. Service-specific guidelines and policies apply to the program, and families desiring care will be required to meet all eligibility requirements for their particular service component.

Operation: Military Child Care is available to families of active duty, National Guard and Reserve servicemembers who are activated or deployed in support of the war on terror. Eligibility begins with the when the military parent receives deployment orders and ends 60 days after the parent returns. The program is also available to deployed active duty families without access to military installation child care. This fee assistance program is intended to help support military spouses’ employment, education or special medical circumstances. It is also available to spouses looking for employment for a period not to exceed 60 days.

DoD has partnered with the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) to provide child care services and fee assistance to the families of severely injured servicemembers who are receiving in-patient or out-patient medical treatment. Assistance is provided up to six months, but can be extended on a case-by-case basis. For more information or to access care, call Child Care Aware at 800-424-2246 or download the application at injured.

The Army Family Covenant provides for up to sixteen hours, per month/per child of respite care services on installations to families of deploying servicemembers starting 30-days prior to deployment through 60-days after. They also provide respite care for families of wounded servicemembers for as long as they need it and to survivors, indefinitely. Contact your local Army Child and Youth Services office for additional information on the program.

NACCRRA is implementing Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) Respite Care, for Navy and Marine Corps families in eight locations. This program is designed for families who have children identified as Exceptional Family Members (EFM). NACCRRA EFMP Respite Care helps Navy and Marine Corps families with children with special needs by providing 40 hours of respite care per month so they can leave the house, go to an appointment, or just rest, while knowing that their child is well cared for. The program is free of charge to qualified families. Eligible families can call Child Care Aware at 1-800-424-2246 or visit EFMP for more information.

Finding quality accessible and affordable child care can prove challenging for uniformed services families. Fortunately, you are not alone in this endeavor. Resources such as the National Military Family Association (, Military OneSource (, NACCRRA (, the Child Care Aware hotline (800-424-2246) and Military Homefront ( include links and information related to child care resources. Families on or near a military installation are encouraged to contact the local Child and Youth Programs Office to explore opportunities available in their communities.

By Kelly Hruska