Child care is notoriously challenging to find. Across the country, families struggle to place their children in safe and affordable care and are often on waitlists for a significant amount of time. Military families often have extra considerations when seeking care for their children due to extended work hours, unexpected travel, and distance from family members and loved ones.
A new memo from the Department of Defense outlines changes in the child care program to ensure that the children of active duty service members are receiving priority on waitlists at the Child Development Center (CDC). MFAN expects these changes will go into effect on June 1, 2020.
Here is how the system will work:
In order to use the CDC, you will need to apply for care at MilitaryChildCare.com. If you decline care when it is offered to you, you will be removed from all waitlists and will need to reapply.
Your priority level will be determined when you register. The first level of priority is for children of staff members working at the CDC. The second level of priority is held for children of single or dual active duty service members. Children at these two levels will never be removed from care to accommodate another child at any level.
Preference for active duty families falls in this order:
a. Single or dual active duty service members
b. Single or dual guard or reserve members on active duty or training status
c. Active duty with a full-time working spouse
d. Guard or reserve members with a full-time working spouse
Are you a working military spouse? You can also receive preference at the CDC.
“Working spouse” has been defined as everything from working traditional, full–time hours at an employer, or through freelance work to self–employment. You can work inside or outside of your home to qualify. You will need to be working more than 30 hours a week, or 100 hours a month to claim the working spouse’s preference.
Working spouses will need to show proof of employment or enrollment in college. You can bring your pay stub, 1099, W2, proof of enrollment, or a letter stating how many hours you work in a month. You can expect to need to show proof of employment, job seeking, or educational enrollment on a regular basis, so make sure you pay attention to recertification guidelines, or you may lose your child’s spot at the CDC.
Are you a military spouse enrolled full time in school? You get preference, too!
The next category of preference is active duty, guard or reserve members on active duty or training with a spouse enrolled full time in school. This means you can receive priority care if you are seeking your GED, are enrolled in a trade school or apprenticeship, or are a student at a traditional college. Children at this level can be removed from care if a child in one of the top categories needs a spot in care, and the wait is estimated to be more than 45 days. You will need to show proof of enrollment on a regular basis to maintain this preference.
Working part time while also taking college classes? That may qualify as well:
In order to qualify for preference as an active duty family, the spouse will need to be working more than 30 hours a week. However, if you work less than 30 hours a week, and are also enrolled in college, or a trade or apprenticeship program, you can also qualify for priority placement. You will need to show proof of employment and enrollment to receive this preference.
Looking for a job? Here’s what you need to know:
If you are job hunting, you can also receive priority status. You will need to submit verification every thirty days, but if you have not found a job after 90 days, your child may be removed from care unless you seek an authorization from the installation commander, and as long as a family with a higher priority status is not on the waiting list.
Who else can use the CDC?
The next category of preference is children of DOD civilians, with a preference given to single or dual households, and those with a full-time working spouse.
The remaining availability will be filled with space-available patrons, with a preference first for active duty, then DoD civilian employees who have a spouse seeking employment, or attending school full time, Gold Star spouses, Coast Guard members, and DoD contractors, in that order.
What if you can’t find care at your local defense child care program?
You may find that your local CDC does not have room for your child when you need it, or your child may lose their preference due to a change in your work or school enrollment. If your child is removed from care due to a higher priority member needing care, you will receive 45 days’ notice to find new care for your child.
Many installations can provide a list of approved family child care homes or can point you in the direction of child care centers off base. If you are on a waitlist and need to seek out care on the economy, visit Child Care Aware to see if you are eligible for child care assistance.