The MilFam Childcare Dilemma: Can It Be Solved?

Published: April 26, 2019

When it comes to raising your military family, it’s all hands on deck. And for a good reason. Your service member spouse’s schedule is just about as unpredictable as a toddler’s behavior. Not to mention, when he or she gets word about a training, deployment, or relocation, that news really has a way of throwing a wrench into your current working routine.

It truly takes a village so your family can successfully complete any mission that comes with serving our country. For that reason, childcare options can often fill that roleespecially when you’re not usually afforded the luxury of asking your friends or family members if you can drop your kids off for the day.

Maybe you’re working part- or full-time (or putting a serious amount of grit into finding a flexible milspouse-friendly position), going to school, or feeling on the verge of reaching parental burnout from doing all the things. You need all the help you can get because you can often be found taking on not just the important and demanding role of one parent, but two.

Luckily, there are so many options, right? You can take your pick from Child Development Centers (CDC), Family Child Care (FCC) in government-owned or leased property and even state-licensed homes within the community, as well as school-age care programs (SAC) located at DoD youth centers, CDC, and other facilities.

I wish it were that easy. Unfortunately, it’s not. And military families have something to say about it.

What are military families saying?

Just as civilians often experience, demand exceeds supply. In this case, however, being placed on a waitlist, while a common occurrence, isn’t something military families can (or want to) tolerate. Riding it out, crossing fingers, and hoping for the best isn’t our style. Reason being, finding a viable solution to the childcare dilemma is not only important, but it’s also critical to military family readiness and well-being.

Even so, in Blue Star Families’ 2018 Military Family Lifestyle Survey (MFLS), 72% of military families cannot obtain reliable childcare. More specifically, 79% of female service members who relocated last year cannot obtain reliable childcare.

And not only that, but it’s also the top need among military caregivers. As a caregiver for a family member, it’s, without a doubt, essential that quality day-to-day care is readily available for your children. That way, you can not only get the support you need and deserve to carry out the enormous responsibility, but also allow room to tend to your well-being—something that’s often pushed to the side while taking on such a demanding role.

Lastly, several unattainable childcare options are thought to be the cause of never-ending CDC waitlists as explained by one Air Force spouse:

“The process to become a Child Development Home (CDH) provider is so cumbersome and long that no one does it.  This increases the extremely long waitlist at the Child Development Centers (CDC) and causes people to just set up childcare under the table.”

CDC Child Development Center

Photo by Airman 1st Class Christina Bennett
28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs

The good news? Leaders and policymakers are listening.

Thanks to military families like yours speaking up through the MFLS, the insight shared has helped inform legislative changes to Child Development Center hours, hiring processes for childcare providers, a congressionally-commissioned report to explore private-public partnerships on childcare, and more.

Though this problem seems to be growing much faster than efforts designed to solve it. What we also know to be true? Current efforts don’t adequately account for families who need childcare for reasons other than employment or those who require providers that can accommodate children with special needs. This is why we make it our mission here at BSF to continue to advocate for solutions that include those populations.

But, your voice is still needed to continue to effect change!

We need YOUR creative solutions to help address what is a growing and challenging problem. Become a member of BSF today so you can get ready to share your childcare dilemma (and more!) with us in the 2019 Military Family Lifestyle Survey, which launches on May 6 and runs through June 14. Don’t forget to encourage those in your military community to do the same!