What is the Military Child Care Act?
The military has many working parents in its ranks, and these service members need safe and affordable child care when they are at work or on active duty. Congress responded by creating the Military Child Care Act in 1989, and since then the Military Child Care system has become a model for civilian day care centers.
Child Care Options Available
The Military Child Care Act provides for three different types of child care:
- Child Development Centers: These are similar to day care centers which offer programs for children from six weeks to twelve years old. Their staff is trained in early childhood education and CDCs typically meet professional quality standards. Most CDCs are open between 6 am and 6 pm, although a commanding officer may extend open hours if necessary.
- Family Child Care Homes: These are in-home day care centers which are run by individual homeowners. The military trains these homeowners to care for up to six children at a time. FCCs typically have more flexible hours and may be available in areas without a CDC.
- School Age Child Programs: These are after school and summer programs for children between six and twelve years of age. Sometimes the programs are run entirely though the military, but sometimes they are run through a local Boys & Girls Club or 4-H club that offers special discounts for military members.
Each branch of the military maintains its own child care programs:
- Army Child Development Centers
- Navy Child and Youth Programs (includes the Marine Corps.)
- Air Force Child Development Programs
- Coast Guard Child Development Centers
These programs are available for children of active duty personnel, Department of Defense (DoD) civilian personnel, wounded warriors, surviving spouses, and DoD contractors. These programs are not available to reservists while they are on inactive (drill) status, but are available for reservists who have been mobilized to active duty. Parents with children in military child care pay a weekly fee for each child in a program. The fee is based on the total family income as recorded on the most recent tax return. Fees may change from year to year. Parents can apply to these programs by filling out a few forms and submitting them to their local Resource and Referral office, which will recommend the best program for each child.
The military closely monitors the quality of its child care programs through several measures. First, it ensures that the child care centers are staffed with well trained individuals. Each CDC has a Training and Curriculum Specialist, who creates a training program for the staff and curricula for the children. CDC staff must complete a basic training program, and must continue to train throughout their employment. Their wages are usually higher than civilian day care workers. CDC workers are also eligible for wage increases when they complete training courses. These higher wages are meant to attract and retain talented individuals to military child care programs.
The military also conducts regular and surprise inspections of each child care facility. The inspections examine the quality of the child care facility's curriculum as well as the safety of the children in these programs. If the child care facility fails to meet the military's standards, the facility is shut down until it can remedy the shortcoming.
If you have additional questions about the Military Child Care Act or related programs, talk to your HR administrator.
Contact a qualified military law attorney to help you with military-related issues.