Most military families with special needs will rely on child care outside the home for their Exceptional Family Members (EFMs) at some time during the early childhood years. Their use of child care providers may be occasional to allow the parent caregiver needed respite, or it may be daily to meet the needs of single parents or dual-income families.
Child care options
The Department of Defense (DoD) has created several programs to provide military families with quality, affordable child care.
- Child Development Centers On your installation, you'll usually find one or more Child Development Centers (CDC), which typically offer care for children from six weeks to five years of age. In most cases, hours are from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, year-round. If you don't need full-time care, some centers offer part-time and hourly care. In a center, children with special needs will be placed with other nondisabled children in their age group
- Family Child Care Family Child Care (FCC) homes, also known as child development homes, may be a good choice if you have a child from infancy to twelve years of age. Providers care for a small group of children in their own home, which may be either on or off the installation. In addition to typical workday hours, FCC homes may provide additional care, such as before- and after-school, nights, and weekends.
- School Age Care Programs for children ages six to twelve are usually open before and after school, on holidays, and for summer day camp. They may use space in a CDC but are more often in Youth Centers or schools. School Age Care (SAC) programs try to create a familiar, safe, and fun place for children. Children have trained supervision, a planned curriculum, and the ability to interact with other kids.
Program for youth and teens on the installation
For youth ages twelve to eighteen, many military installations offer activities and classes at a Youth Center or Community Center. Although program availability varies from installation to installation, all programs offer instructional programs, recreation and sports programs, and educational and youth development programs.
Child care and my child's rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act
The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) protects children with disabilities from being excluded from child care programs unless their presence would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others or require a fundamental alteration of the program. Military and civilian child care programs must make reasonable accommodations to integrate children with disabilities, and cannot assume that a child's disability is too severe for successful integration. There must be an individualized assessment based on professional observations, past history, and standard assessment criteria.
Determining the best placement options for a child with special needs
The Army, Marine Corps, and the Navy have implemented a process to determine and review the best placement and support for children with special needs in the child care setting.
- Army Special Needs Accommodation Process (SNAP). The SNAP consists of a multi-disciplinary team which assists in determining the safest, least restrictive, and most appropriate placement for children who require specialized child care, school-age services, youth services, or recreational sports and fitness activities. Children who are enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) can be referred to SNAP. During the SNAP process, the team: explores child care installation and youth supervision options for children/youth with a medical diagnosis that reflects life threatening conditions, functional limitations, or behavioral/psychological conditions
- determines child care and youth supervision placement considering feasibility of program accommodations and availability of services
- recommends a placement setting that accommodates the child's individual needs
- develops and implements the Department of Army (DA) Form 7625-3, SNAP Team Care Plan
- conducts annual periodic review of the child/youth individual SNAP Care Plan
- establishes an installation SNAP Review Team consisting of garrison commander or designee, staff judge advocate, installation EFMP manager, and Children and Youth Services (CYS) coordinator
- Marine Corps Special Needs Evaluation Review Team (SNERT). The SNERT consists of qualified personnel who make an assessment of the accommodations necessary for a child with special needs to participate in Marine Corps Children, Youth, and Teen Programs (CYTP) and to determine the most appropriate placement for the child. Children who require medical or educational intervention, assistance, or other accommodations are eligible for services. Upon request for services, the SNERT will make an assessment of the accommodations necessary for a child with special needs to participate and determine the most appropriate placement. More information on the SNERT is available in Marine Corps Order P1710.30E, Marine Corps Children, Youth and Teen Programs, June 24, 2004.
- Navy Special Needs Review Board (SNRB). The SNRB determines the ability of the Navy's Child and Youth Program (CYP) to reasonably accommodate children with special needs. The SNRB makes an assessment and reports to the responsible commander on the program's ability to accommodate the child with special needs. More information on the SNRB process is available in OPNAV Instruction 1700.9E, Child and Youth Program (CYP), July 10, 2008.
Locating child care in the civilian community
If you do not have access to installation child development programs, or prefer to have your child cared for off the installation, there are many options you have.
- Installation Resource and Referral programs. Most installation Child Development Services programs have a resource and referral office that helps parents find the right care for their child. This office should be the first contact for parents looking for child care on or near a military installation. If child care is not available on the installation, these offices can help parents locate care through accredited child care centers in the local community. Contact information for military child development resource and referral offices can be found through MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.
- Child Care Aware of America. The Department of Defense (DoD) works with Child Care Aware of America, formerly NACCRRA, to make quality community-based child care more affordable and accessible to military families. This relationship has resulted in programs specially designed to help military families with child care needs that can't be accommodated through installation programs. More information is available on the Child Care Aware of America website.
- National Network for Child Care/Special Needs. The National Network for Child Care/Special Needs provides a number of articles for child care providers on issues related to special needs children, for example: "Caring for Children with Challenging Behaviors." More information is available on the National Network for Child Care/Special Needs website.