No, I'm going to be honest because the truth needs to be said. The lack of childcare and the extensive regulations preventing effectively running centers is unsuitable to the needs of those it serves.
Military families cannot maintain financial security without stable employment, and they cannot maintain stable employment without adequate childcare. From extensive waitlists to limited hours, military families are often left scrambling to find child care. This leads to families using uncertified daycare facilities, over capacitated in-home care, and other, sometimes unsafe options for child care.
Did you know that military child care facilities service over 200k children? According to the latest Congressional Research Service report, there are about 23 thousand employed at military child care facilities around the world. These facilities bring in 400 million dollars in fees alone. This number does not include additional funding provided by Non-Appropriated Funds (NAF) or other entities. It's no surprise that the Army receives the bulk of financial support from Operation and Maintenance Funds. However, what is intriguing is that they have the least amount of allocated child care slots for military sponsors than any other branch. Why is that? Another military mystery.
Before obtaining child care at an on-post military installation, you must register your child. Some installations offer walk-in registrations for child care, while others require appointments to be made. You are required to produce medical documents, including physicals and shot records for all children. This is a standard operating procedure as child care facilities on and off-post want to ensure the health and well being of your child.
However, If your child has special needs like he/she takes daily medications, has an IEP, or allergies, buckle up because it's going to be a bumpy process. I have both a child with special developmental needs and a child with food allergies. You can imagine how long and arduous the registration process can be—collecting documentation from doctors, meeting with the SNAP team, waiting for approval, all painstakingly redundant. Once you've made it past the registration process, you have crossed over to the waitlist realm, where weeks turn into months, and even years.
So tell me, what’s the longest you’ve waited for military child care?
The longest I've waited was six months. I honestly checked my child's status every day for at least two of those months. The explanations for the long waitlists were: limited staff and lack of space within child care facilities to accommodate families in need.
The Military Child Care Act was originally created in 1989 because of concern for the conditions of off post child care facilities. However, the DOD's evolution of caring for diverse military families has been slow to accommodate the needs of the 21st Century military family. With that being said, many strides have been made. Some installations offer date night care once a month allowing parents after-hours care, up to date academic curriculum to help prepare children for school, and FCC's to help with overflow.
The staff members I've personally encountered are kind, loving, and have genuinely cared for my children. But many of them were overworked and often expected to excel with limited resources. Despite this, there is a way you can help positively impact military child care facilities.
What You Can Do
- Speak up about insufficient care at your local installation.
- Volunteer at the CDC. Jobs like planning activities, cutting projects, and other office work does not require you be an employee and allows the center's employees to man more childcare rooms.
Together, we can help make our military child care facilities accessible and adequate for everyone. Holding our leadership accountable and asking them to fight for our families isn't wrong, accepting sub-par care is.