Tools for Leaders/Command

Children, Youth & Teens

Children sitting on a bench


Military children and youth programs provide essential services to military families. The unique needs of military families have never been greater as they face frequent or prolonged deployments, high operational tempo and ever-changing family schedules and routines. The Department of Defense recognizes the importance of providing families access to quality programs and to assisting service members in balancing mission requirements with the needs of the family. Programs that offer access to quality child care and initiatives that support youth and teens have a direct impact on the effectiveness and readiness of the force.

Key points

  • Child development center program. The child development center program provides care to children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. More than 50 percent of the program's care capacity is provided to children under the age of 3 years. Each military child development center is certified by DoD, and most are accredited by a national accrediting body.
  • School age care program. The school age care program provides care to children kindergarten to 12 years of age, before and after school and during holidays and summer vacations. School age care is considered a component of the child development program system of care, with all programs certified by DoD andmost accredited by a national accrediting body.
  • Family child care/child development home program. Family child care/child development home care is provided in private homes by certified providers living in government-owned or -leased housing. Families rely upon family child care to provide flexible child care, including night, weekend and unusual hourly care, such as shift work and emergency situations.
  • 24/7 child care. Both the Army and the Navy operate group homes that offer care 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. Care may be provided in affiliated homes located off the installation. Affiliated homes are both licensed by the state and agree to abide by the DoD standards for operation. In addition, care may be offered through licensed and accredited programs operating in community-based facilities.
  • Youth and teen programs and services. Youth and teen programs prepare youth to meet the challenges of military life, adolescence and adulthood. Programs include physical fitness and sports, arts and recreation, training in leadership, life skills, career/volunteer opportunities, mentoring, intervention and support services.


Children (birth through age 18) whose parents are active-duty service members, National Guard and reserve members, and DoD civilians are eligible for these programs. Eligibility may also extend to children of retirees and other populations on a space-available basis.


Children and youth programs are available at more than 300 locations worldwide.


Department of Defense Policy
Department of Defense Legislation
Department of Defense Service Regulations and Orders
Support Services
Child Development Programs Info Paper
Department of Defense Instruction 1402.05 Info Paper
DoD School Age and Youth Programs Info Paper
Sesame Workshop Partnership Info Paper
Additional Resources



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