Journal Issue: Military Children and Families Volume 23 Number 2 Fall 2013
The U.S. military has come to realize that providing reliable, high-quality child care for service members' children is a key component of combat readiness. As a result, the Department of Defense (DoD) has invested heavily in child care. The DoD now runs what is by far the nation's largest employer-sponsored child-care system, a sprawling network with nearly 23,000 workers that directly serves or subsidizes care for 200,000 children every day. Child-care options available to civilians typically pale in comparison, and the military's system, embedded in a broader web of family support services, is widely considered to be a model for the nation.
The military's child-care success rests on four pillars, write Major Latosha Floyd and Deborah A. Phillips. The first is certification by the military itself, including unannounced inspections to check on safety, sanitation, and general compliance with DoD rules. The second is accreditation by nationally recognized agencies, such as the National Association for the Education of Young Children. The third is a hiring policy that sets educational and other requirements for childcare workers, and the fourth is a pay scale that not only sets wages high enough to discourage the rapid turnover common in civilian child care but also rewards workers for completing additional training.
Floyd and Phillips sound a few cautionary notes. For one, demand for military child care continues to outstrip the supply. In particular, as National Guard and Reserve members have been activated during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the DoD has sometimes struggled to provide child care for their children. And force reductions and budget cuts are likely to force the military to make difficult choices as it seeks to streamline its child-care services in the years ahead.