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Military Child Care Options

Safe, affordable and dependable child care is critical for working parents and student parents. To ensure quality care, the Department of Defense set clear standards for military-operated and military-affiliated child care programs and provides options, as well as assistance, for military families living on and off installations.

Understanding the child care options available to military families and knowing how to find them is critical as families prepare for work in new locations, search for a job or plan to attend school.

Child Care Program Types

Child Development Centers, CDCs, are available on most installations, providing year-round services for children ages six weeks to five years. Larger installations might have multiple CDCs, and some centers offer part-time and hourly services. 

Family Child Care, FCC, providers care for children in their homes, either on or off the installation, accepting children from two weeks through 12 years of age. Family Child Care homes operate during weekday hours, but may also offer before/after school and evening/weekend care.

School-Age Care, SAC, programs offer before/after school, holiday and often summer day camp care from kindergarten through sixth grade. Care is typically provided in a school age care program facility or a youth center.

To ensure quality across programs, the Department of Defense certifies military child care programs. This certification is comparable to the state licensing process. While licensing standards vary from state to state, the Department of Defense standards are the same worldwide. Families can expect to see the same, consistent level of quality when they move from one installation to another. The Department of Defense standards focus on health, safety, parent involvement, staff training requirements and developmentally appropriate practices. To ensure affordability, fees for child development centers and school age services are determined by total family income.

Finding Child Care

To standardize and simplify the child care search process for families across Services, the Department of Defense introduced, the online request for care system that provides access to comprehensive information about military-operated and military-subsidized child care programs worldwide. Military families seeking child care — CDC, FCC, SAC — must use to request care. Families can search for programs on their current installations or in any location they might be moving to next, even before their PCS orders are issued. For assistance with, families can call the toll-free number at 855-696-2934.

The Department of Defense provides assistance to families that live far from an installation or are waitlisted for installation-based child care to find quality, affordable community child care services through a network of Child Care Resource and Referral agencies. Families can find an agency that serves their area by visiting Child Care Aware of America or by calling 800-424-2246. Child Care Aware of America manages several programs for the military and can also provide eligible families with fee assistance.

Expanded Hourly Child Care Services

The Department of Defense provides military families with access to flexible, on-demand child care options through a nationwide database through Military OneSource. This service features profiles of hourly caregivers, including background checks, references, reviews and pictures. Learn more about hourly child care options.

Tips for Evaluating Child Services Providers

Whether you are just starting your search, are a new parent or need a new provider, you can find great child care with the right help. Five Steps to Choosing Care provides tips on getting started and narrowing options. For questions or additional assistance, contact a SECO career coach by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or use the Live Chat feature on the MySECO website.

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