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The Defense Department and Military OneSource know how important it is for military families to find affordable, quality child care. It’s essential for military parents to have safe and reliable care in place in order to be mission ready. Learn how to access resources to help you find affordable, quality child care, take steps to secure the care your family needs and find out how to ensure your provider is licensed and qualified to care for your child.
Resources to help you find affordable, quality care
The DOD understands that finding affordable, quality child care, especially infant and toddler care, is challenging. It’s essential to find a program that is convenient, open when you need it and within your budget, but most importantly, you need a child care program that is certified by the Defense Department or licensed in your state and ensures your children are safe, healthy and learning.
Find licensed, quality care at MilitaryChildCare.com
The Defense Department website, MilitaryChildCare.com, helps families in any service branch find and request military-operated and military-subsidized child care options anywhere in the world.
Use the following services to find affordable, quality care:
- MilitaryChildCare.com is a DOD website that enables parents to find comprehensive information on military-operated or military-approved child care programs worldwide. Families can search for and request care, manage their requests and update their household profile online — anytime and from anywhere — making it easier for families to find the child care they need. Search for full- and part-time care at facility-based or home-based child care programs, including before- and after-school care, as well as summer and holiday camps.
- Expanded hourly child care options is a service available through Military OneSource. Military families now have free access to a national database of more than one million caregivers so they can find hourly, flexible and on-demand child care. The service is easy to access and is an online solution that allows you to choose, hire and pay providers on your terms. This service is available to anyone who is eligible for Military OneSource services.
This nationally recognized subscription service allows you to:
- Search for care based on your own needs and criteria
- Find potential care providers
- Check references
- Review background checks
- Interview potential caregivers
- Child Care Aware® of America is the Defense Department’s third party administrator for Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood, or MCCYN, and MCCYN-PLUS — DOD fee assistance programs available to qualifying families. These programs pay a portion of child care costs on behalf of families who are unable to access installation child care.
Tips to ensure greater success in finding quality care
While quality, convenient care can be hard to find in certain geographical areas, you can increase success in accessing care that’s best for your family by taking the following steps:
- Start early. Look as far in advance as you can. Search for care during pregnancy or the adoption process. Received PCS orders? Begin the search to secure care at your new installation as soon as possible.
- Get informed.
- If possible, visit potential child care providers in person. Make sure the environment is safe, clean and well maintained. Ask questions such as:
- Is the program licensed?
- Is the program accredited? Has the program been approved through the state’s quality improvement program?
- Does the program have an appropriate number of adults looking after each child? What is the child-staff ratio? Compare the ratio to your state’s regulations.
- Are children supervised at all times? What is the program’s process for backup care when a staff member takes a break or needs to step away?
- Does the director have a college degree in child development or a related field?
- Has every adult working or volunteering in the program had a comprehensive background check?
- Do staff members receive ongoing training for working with children, child development, health and safety protocol, fire prevention, child abuse and child abuse reporting?
- Is the program warm and welcoming? Are visits from parents allowed and encouraged at any time the program is open and operating?
- Does the program have a discipline policy? Does the discipline policy teach and guide children rather than punish them? For example, does the discipline policy make it clear that there will be no spanking, no shaming or humiliating, and no excluding of children?
- What is the policy if a child becomes sick or injured? Under what circumstances are parents notified?
- Decide which child care option is best for your family’s unique needs.
- Stay involved. Build a strong relationship with your provider and look for ways to exchange information about your child.
Use these downloadable tips on choosing quality child care from Child Care Aware® of America to help you make the best decision for your family.
How to determine if child care providers are licensed
For the safety of military children, the DOD does not permit unlicensed child care on installations and discourages the use of unlicensed care in civilian neighborhoods. If you determine that family child care or home-based care is the best solution for your family, it is important for the safety of your children and quality of learning that you ensure it is licensed and regulated. Check with your installation Family Child Care office to ensure the child care program you’re interested in falls under their responsibility.
Take these steps to ensure the quality of your child’s care:
- Determine whether the potential provider has a license from your state or local government. While licensing does not guarantee quality, it does set minimum requirements and ensures that programs are monitored for compliance with these requirements. You can contact the state government agency responsible for child care licensing to find out whether a provider has a license and view the provider’s licensing record. Most states include records of child care licensing inspections in the search results for each provider. States can provide records over the phone or through the agency office if the information is not available online.
- Understand your state’s licensing requirements. Child care licensing regulations vary from state to state. The National Database of Child Care Licensing Regulations includes contact information and websites for state licensing departments. You can choose your state and view, download and search the child care licensing regulations that apply to child care centers, family child care homes and other licensed child care programs.
- Review specific child care licensing regulations. Regulations cover many topics, including:
- The number of children one adult can care for at a time (child-staff ratio) and the number of children allowed in a class (group size)
- Supervision of children
- Safety of the building (such as emergency exits, cleanliness and repairs, and potential dangers)
- Immunization requirements, handwashing, diapering and other methods to stop the spread of disease
- The nutrition of the food served to children
- Training, health and other requirements for the adults working at the child care program
- Most states allow some child care providers to be exempt from child care licensing laws. Often these providers offer care to children who are related to them, care for a very small number of children or operate only a few hours a day. Your state licensing agency can provide information about which types of providers are exempt from licensing in your state. Providers who are exempt from licensing still need to meet health and safety requirements if any of the children they care for receive federal child care financial assistance.
What to do if you discover unlicensed child care on a military installation
For the safety of all military children, installations have processes in place to follow up and investigate any reports of unauthorized child care. If you discover unlicensed child care on your installation, notify any of the following installation offices: installation commander, child and youth services, military police or housing. Your installation will follow up by visiting the home, making sure the provider receives information about the DOD Family Child Care program and providing a written request to cease the child care operation until the care provider becomes certified. (You can find contact information for installation offices by visiting MilitaryINSTALLATIONS.)
Meeting the child care needs of military families is important to the DOD, and making sure military children are cared for in safe, healthy, quality environments is the highest priority. For the safety of military children, the DOD does not permit unlicensed child care on installations and discourages the use of unlicensed care in civilian neighborhoods. Parents can find licensed, affordable, quality care through MilitaryChildCare.com, Child Care Aware® of America or the expanded child care options available through Military OneSource.
If you need additional assistance with your child care needs, Military OneSource consultants are available 24/7/365 to help. Call 800-342-9647, set up a live chat or view overseas calling options to schedule a free and confidential consultation.