Child interacts with care worker

Military Child Care Programs

Choosing child care may be one of the most important decisions—and one of the first—you’ll make as a parent. Sure, it can be nerve-wracking. Rest assured, the Department of Defense provides military families with quality, affordable child care options.

Consider your options early, however. More than 40 percent of service members have kids, and a large share of those are under age five. So the demand for child care is high.

Child development centers and other options for child care

The first thing to know: The Department of Defense sets clear criteria for child care and uses a process that includes unannounced inspections to ensure programs meet high standards. Child care options available on military installations include:

  • Child development centers. These typically accept children as young as six weeks and up to five years old. The centers typically operate Monday to Friday, year-round. Hours vary. Some even offer part-time and hourly care. Cost is based on your total family income.
  • Family child care homes. Also called development homes, these provide care for infants and children up to age 12. Providers use their homes to care for a small, mixed-aged group of children. In addition to typical workday hours, some family child care homes also provide care on nights and weekends.
  • School-age care programs. These programs for children ages six to 12 provide care before and after school, on holidays and during the summer. These programs usually are located in youth centers or schools. Cost is based on total family income.

If you don't live close to your installation, or get wait-listed for on-site care, you can choose an off-installation option, and possibly be eligible for fee assistance. Child Care Aware of America manages several such child care programs for the military, including:

  • Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood helps active-duty Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force families find and pay for community-based quality child care when on-post programs are unavailable. The Army’s separate Army Fee Assistance is also being transitioned to Child Care Aware.
  • The Operation Military Child Care program provides fee assistance for families of deployed or mobilized National Guard, reserve and active-duty service members.

Finding child care options right for you

You can find the right child care with these options:

  • MilitaryChildCare.com is a Department of Defense website for military families seeking child care. This single online gateway helps make it easier for families to search and find a variety of military-run and military-subsidized child care options across all services. Call the toll-free number at 855-696-2934.
  • If your child has special needs, your service will work closely with you to find the best placement for your child. You can contact your installation child development center to learn more about child care options for your family. Each installation works with a multi-disciplinary Inclusion Action team that includes the parent in the discussion of how to best meet the individual needs of the child.
  • Contact your installation's child development center for information on its child care programs and options, or visit MilitaryINSTALLATIONS to access a directory of providers.
  • Child Care Resource and Referral agencies are typically part of a statewide network of agencies that help working parents find child care. You can find the agency that serves your area by visiting Child Care Aware of America or by calling 800-424-2246.

Whether you need help with child care or other aspects of parenting, you can always reach out to Military OneSource.