Journal Issue: Caring for Infants and Toddlers Volume 11 Number 1 Spring/Summer 2001
A Model for National Child Care Reform
The transformation of military child care from a disgrace to a national model came about by focusing attention and resources on three cornerstones: quality, affordability, and availability—each documented in measurable outcomes. Nothing is more remarkable about the military system than the care it offers to infants and toddlers. Infant care is notoriously scarce and expensive, and it is a challenge to provide it in a way that meets professional standards of quality. Even so, the military system provides infant care that receives high marks for quality, affordability, and availability.
The National Women's Law Center report, Be All That We Can Be: Lessons from the Military for Improving Our Nation's Child Care System, issued in April 2000,17,18 summarizes the military's journey to excellence by describing the earlier deficiencies in military child care and detailing the specific steps the military used to turn its system around. The report argues that the military's experience can be applied to improve civilian child care, concluding, "If the U.S. military can do an about face and dramatically improve its child care system in a relatively short period of time, there is great hope for improving child care across the United States. The lessons learned from this example should be applied to expand access to high-quality, affordable child care for everyone." (See Box 1.) If this happens, the Cinderella story of military child care will come true for all of America's infants and children. No longer will it be accurate to say that "The best chance a family has to be guaranteed affordable and high-quality (child) care in this country is to join the military."5