Choosing child care may be one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a parent, and it can be hard to know where to start. Rest assured, the Department of Defense provides military families with a variety of quality, affordable child care options.
The Department of Defense is committed to meeting the growing and diverse child care needs of military families, and takes great pride in the quality of services provided to children on and off installations worldwide. While services may vary by location, the standards and quality of services are consistent and meet established regulations. Learn more about military child care program options below.
Hourly child care? You’ve got it.
Through Military OneSource, parents now have free access to a national database to search for hourly, flexible and on-demand child care.
Child development centers
Child development centers, or CDCs, are located on installations and generally offer care for infants through preschool age children. Child care is available Monday through Friday, during standard work hours (e.g., 6 a.m. – 6 p.m.) with some locations offering extended hours. CDC programs provide full-day and part-day care. Centers vary in size and larger installations may operate multiple facilities. CDC programs have Department of Defense certification, and accreditation from a national accrediting body such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
Family child care
Family child care providers are certified professionals who provide child care for infants through school age children in their homes, located either on or off an installation. FCC providers typically offer a flexible schedule to support parents with a variety of care needs, including full-day, part-day, and school year care, summer camp, and in some cases, 24/7 and extended care. Regulations limit the number of children who receive care at any one time to no more than six children under age eight, and no more than three children when all children are under age two. Family child care providers must be certified by the installation to operate. Individual providers may voluntarily seek national accreditation from the National Association for Family Child Care and receive local support, training, and materials to accomplish this goal.
School-age care, or SAC, programs provide care to children in kindergarten through sixth grade. Care is offered before and after school, during non-school days and summer vacations. SAC programs may take place in Department of Defense youth centers, child development centers, or other suitable facilities. All programs have Department of Defense certification, and accreditation by a national accrediting body such as the Council on Accreditation.
Requesting child care
- MilitaryChildCare.com is a Department of Defense website that helps families in any service branch find and request military-operated child care anywhere in the world. Families can search for full- and part-time care in the CDC, FCC and SAC programs outlined above.
- 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 Exceptional Family Member Program to learn about options for your family. For more information, visit the Military OneSource Exceptional Family Member Program Family Support page.
Hourly child care service
In addition to child care programs available through MilitaryChildCare.com, the Department of Defense is proud to offer an expanded child care service to help meet the growing and diverse needs of military families. Through Military OneSource, parents can now access a nationally recognized caregiver database to search for hourly, flexible and on-demand child care.
The online caregiver service lets you:
- Search for care that fits your own needs and criteria
- Find potential care providers
- Check references
- Review background checks
- Interview, hire and pay providers on your terms
Use your Military OneSource account to set up free access to the online child care service. Log in to your existing account or create an account to get a unique subscription code and establish your child care service account.
For more information about the online caregiver search service, and to register, visit Military OneSource Expanded Hourly Child Care Options.
Finding child care that is right for you
If this is your first time arranging child care and you’re feeling overwhelmed, Child Care Aware of America offers lots of helpful information for families. Resources include these downloadable checklists with questions to help you compare different options and make the right child care decision for your family:
- Child Care Center Checklist
- Family Child Care Home Checklist
- Preschool Program Checklist
- School-Age Child Care Program Checklist
Child Care Aware of America manages several programs for the military and you may be eligible for fee assistance.
If you have questions about child care, parenting or military life in general, reach out to Military OneSource. Consultants are available 24/7/365 to answer questions and connect you with resources to help your family thrive. Call 800-342-9647, use OCONUS dialing options or schedule a live chat.