Finding affordable child care is a chief concern for many military parents—and understandably so. The good news is that whether you're employed, seeking employment, going to school or simply need a break, there are a number or excellent child care programs available.
Before we get into the specifics, you should know that there are two primary military-sponsored programs, each of which offers a variety of options designed to meet the unique needs of military families.
Military Child Development Program
Although the Department of Defense oversees this program, each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces has its child development program that operates under the guidelines set forth by the DoD. The Military Child Development Program offers three main options:
- Child Development Centers. Most military installations have at least one child development center (daycare center). These centers provide care to children ranging from six weeks through 12 years of age. The fees are established by a sliding scale, and waiting lists are not uncommon.
- Family Child Care Homes. These are essentially in-home day care centers that are located either on or off the military installation. Like the Child Development Centers, they accept infants and kids through age 12. Family Child Care Homes and Child Development Centers must meet similar safety and educational standards. One of the great benefits of Family Child Care Homes is that they're more flexible and are often open during non-traditional hours, which is great if you and/or your spouse work nights, evenings or weekends.
- School-Age Programs. As the name implies, this program provides supervision and care for kids 6-12 before and after school hours. Sometimes this program is located in a separate area of the Child Development Center. However, the military has established partnerships with many youth programs, including the Boys and Girls Club of America, 4-H Clubs, and others. Because these civilian organizations offer such great programming, most of the programs for school-age kids are offered through them instead of through the Child Development Centers.
Operation Military Child Care (OMCC)
Child Care Aware has partnered with each branch of the service to create various subsidized child care programs for kids of deployed/mobilized servicemembers in the Active, Guard, and Reserve component. Click on one of the following links to see the programs available by your branch. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps. The programs outlined below are Army focused, but each branch has something similar for its members.
- Military Child Care In Your Neighborhood (MCCYN): This program is designed to meet the needs of military families who don't live on or near a military installation.
- Army Child Care in Your Neighborhood (ACCYN): Similar to MCCYN this program provides subsidized child care to mobilized or deployed active, Reserve and Guard families who live off-post but in proximity to various military installations.
- Army School-Age Program in Your Neighborhood (ASPYN): This is a before and afterschool program for kids of mobilized or deployed active, Reserve and Guard soldiers. Currently, this program is available near eight different Army posts. More information regarding ASPYN is featured here.
- Give Army Parents a Break: Unlike the other initiatives, this program is designed to give spouses/guardians a break by offering up to 16 hours of child care per each child up to the age of 12. To qualify the servicemember must be a deployed Reservist or Guardsman.
If, for whatever reason, you're unable to secure child care through one of the programs above, or if you simply need an occasional babysitter or household help, be sure to check out Sittercity—an online database that features thousands of pre-screened sitters and nannies.
As an added benefit, Sittercity has partnered with the DoD to give military families in all branches and components free membership, potentially saving military families the standard $140 annual membership fee.
Updated by Armin Brott, June 2016