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An Overview of Child Care and Youth Programs

The military services offer a wide variety of quality children and youth programs in structured developmental settings on and off the military installation to provide for safe, age-appropriate activities.

Youth programs

Programs for youth include:

  • Instructional programs. Instructional programs provide opportunities to develop new skills and learn in hands-on, informal settings. Programs cover a wide range of topics including photography, woodworking, science and technology, gardening, health and safety.
  • Recreation sports programs. These programs are typically offered through the installation youth center. A year-round program of team sports provides numerous opportunities for youth to challenge themselves physically while developing life skills, such as good sportsmanship and the value of teamwork.
  • Recreation programs. Recreation programs are geared toward individual interests and skills such as golf and tennis. These programs may be offered through a variety of Morale, Welfare and Recreation and services facilities, such as the golf course, bowling center and youth centers.
  • Educational and youth development programs. These programs are focused on citizenship, character building, public speaking and leadership.

Child care programs

The services and the Department of Defense also recognize the importance of providing families with access to quality, affordable child care programs, because child care is a work force issue that directly impacts the efficiency, readiness and retention of the total force. The services provide child care through a portfolio of programs:

  • Child development center program. This program is designed for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years.
  • School-age care program. The SAC program provides care to children from kindergarten to 12 years of age before and after school and during holidays and summer vacations.
  • Family child care/child development home program. This program provides care for children ages 4 weeks to 12 years of age in a home setting.
  • 24-7 child care. This program is provided in a group home that operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, designed to meet the needs of shift workers and families seeking flexible child care arrangements.
  • Community-based child care program. This program provides care for children ages 4 weeks to 12 years of age in state licensed and nationally accredited programs operating in community-based facilities and homes.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense, Office of Children and Youth provides policy and budget support, conducts annual aggregate operations data collection and supports special initiatives addressing children and youth.


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