Tag Archives: child care

Drowning in Child Care Costs? Here’s Your Lifesaver!

judy-familyI was 7 months pregnant, working full time and searching for a child care provider. As a first time parent, I was terrified to bring my daughter home (can you believe they let you leave the hospital with a newborn and no instruction manual?), but finding someone I trusted enough to leave her with all day while I worked made me incredibly paranoid. Add to that the expense of infant daycare in the DC area, and I was a wreck.

While relaying my plight to my coworkers, a fellow military spouse spoke up and asked, “Don’t you know about Child Care Aware?” The name sounded like some watchdog group who might provide a list of reputable centers.

As it turned out, they were so much more.

My coworker went on to tell me about the subsidy she received for her two children in daycare. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The military would help us offset this huge expense? I wouldn’t just be ‘breaking even’ between my income and the price of daycare? AND the facilities had to adhere to even more stringent guidelines than the state required? Where could I sign up?!

My husband and I selected a few places off their list to check out and tour. We got on a couple of waiting lists at the ones we liked, but we couldn’t do anything with the Child Care Aware application until our daughter was actually born. Once she arrived, we called them (and spoke to a really helpful representative) and discovered we just needed to scan and upload a few documents, and apply online.

To be eligible, I had to either be working full time, or in school full time. So, we sent in one of my pay stubs, my husband’s leave and earning statement (LES), along with the application, and waited a couple weeks to see if we were approved. If we were approved, how much would our subsidy be?

The process was easier than I assumed it would be; I figured I’d have weeks of paperwork going back and forth, and I worried we’d still be waiting to finalize everything when I was ready to go back to work after maternity leave. My worries were, thankfully, unfounded and we were eligible to receive the highest stipend allowed!

So how do they figure out your stipend? In a nutshell, they take into account the income of the service member and the price of the center where you’re placing your child. Suffice it to say, our center was more than their ‘cap,’ which is how we were able to receive such a large amount.

Today, Child Care Aware has contracts to work with Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps families, and Army families now use the General Services Administration (GSA).

I am continually surprised by how many other spouses with children aren’t aware of this benefit. If you’re in school or working, and you’re up to your ears in daycare costs, take a few minutes to look this up and see if your center is listed. Trust me when I tell you, it was so worth it for our family!

Melissa-JudyPosted by Melissa Judy, Social Media and Brand Manager

Early Childhood Education: How important is it to you?

military-family-2-kidsAs a mom, I am in the habit of thinking that whatever age my kids happen to be is THE most critical stage in their development. This makes sense, of course – when they were little I worried about reading readiness, while nowadays I stay up nights fretting about SAT scores. And certainly, every age and stage is an important part of a child’s growth and development.

Increasingly, though, research is demonstrating the importance of the early years. In fact, according to the Early Care and Education Consortium (ECEC), 80 percent of a child’s brain development occurs before age five.

Knowing this, it makes sense that quality child care and early education programs can have a huge impact on our kids’ development – and conversely, a lack of good early childhood education can threaten a child’s long-term academic success.

Busy parents – especially in military families – need the peace of mind that comes with knowing that their children are in a safe, nurturing environment while they are at work. Some military families are able to enroll their children in their installation Child Development Center. Other families find care outside the installation through the Services’ fee assistance program administered by Child Care Aware .

Still, we know that the demand for quality child care is far greater than the supply. And for many families, the cost of quality child care or preschool is far out of reach. For this reason, our Association was pleased by President Obama’s recent proposal to expand access to pre-kindergarten and early childhood education programs. We want to make sure all of our military kids have access to the quality early child care and education they and their parents need and deserve.

The ECEC wants to let our government leaders know how important early childhood education is, and they need your help! They have launched a campaign, Strong Start for Children to show Congress how much early child education means to children and families.

Do you have a great story about your child’s experience in child care or preschool? Email info@ececonsortium.org and your story may be included in the campaign. Find out more at the ECEC’s Strong Start for Children page for parents. Every day, policymakers make decisions that impact you, your children, and your ability to access high-quality and reliable early care and education to meet your family’s needs. Make sure your voice is heard!

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director

Recent CDC allegations: rebuilding trust and communication

Tips for communicating with child care providersI remember the first time I dropped my then toddler (now teenager) off at preschool. He was so proud of his new backpack and lunch box and so excited to go off to school like a big kid. Without a moment’s hesitation, he dropped my hand and dashed through the classroom door, eager to begin his new adventure. I, of course, was terrified. The thought of leaving my little one with someone else for hours at a time was overwhelming – even when that someone else was a beloved preschool teacher. How could I be sure that he would be safe, happy, and taken care of?

Leaving your child in someone else’s care requires a leap of faith. As parents of small children we painstakingly review our child care options to find the setting and provider that is the best fit for our families. Most of the time, the faith we place in our child care providers is rewarded and our children thrive.

On a rare occasion, however, a child care provider betrays a parent’s trust. Parents of children at the Fort Myer Child Development Center (CDC) were shocked to learn that two staffers allegedly abused children in their care, while others were found to have criminal records that were not uncovered in background checks. While the staffers in question have been removed from the CDC and an investigation is ongoing, the parents’ trust in the CDC has understandably been shaken.

I attended a town hall meeting for Fort Myer CDC families and it is clear families and staff want to rebuild trust. They are finding that communication is key. Parents need reliable and timely information about how their children are being cared for and what steps are being taken to ensure their safety. They also need a way to express their concerns and feel that their voices are being heard.

At Fort Myer, installation officials and CDC staff are taking steps to open the lines of communication. Town Hall meetings have been held, giving parents an open forum to air their concerns. Parents have also been encouraged to use the Interactive Customer Evaluation (ICE) system to let commanders know about any issues they have with the CDC or their child care providers. The command has also used Send Word Now®, a notification system you may be familiar with in your child’s school that sends social media alerts to notify parents about CDC events via their phones or email.

When my children were in preschool I relied on a regular note in my son’s backpack to keep me informed of what was going on in his classroom, but the world has changed since then and there are many more methods we can use to communicate.

Although most parents will thankfully never face a situation like the one at the Fort Myer CDC, it’s still vital to have effective lines of communication with your child care providers. Parents need to know about last-minute schedule changes, upcoming events, and behavioral concerns that affect their kids. They also need to make sure that providers are aware of their children’s unique needs, such as a parent’s deployment or a new baby in the house. And, as seen in the Fort Myer CDC situation, parents need to know who to contact if they’re not getting the information they need from their provider or if they have concerns about the quality of care their child is receiving.

How do you keep in touch with your child’s teacher or child care provider? What method works best for you, and what hasn’t worked? 

eileenPosted by Eileen Huck, Government Relations Deputy Director at the National Military Family Association

Military families and child care – what are the options?

Military families and child care - what are the options?When mom and dad work, finding care for the little ones, especially if the child is under the age of two can be a challenge and quite an expense. According to Parents and the High Cost of Child Care: 2012 Report, in 35 states and the District of Columbia, the average annual cost for center-based care for an infant was higher than a year’s in-state tuition and related fees at a four-year public college. Yikes.

Military families are not immune to this cost. Many times the Child Development Centers are backfilled for months and do not have space availability for new parents. Since many military families don’t have the safety net of extended family and the service member’s schedule is unpredictable, finding reliable child care is a top priority.

So what resources are available for military families?

Military OneSource is a great resource as families start thinking about what options are available when it comes to child care. The National Military Family Association also has a section on our website dedicated to information about child care for military kids. Both are good starting points!

If you are located near a military base, contact the local Information and Referral specialist and the Children, Youth, and Teen programs. The Information Referral specialist will provide information about child care on and off base. The Children, Youth, and Teen programs will have installation-specific options available. Services vary from installation or community and fees are tiered based on the total family income.

Military families may also be eligible for a subsidy through Child Care Aware (formerly NACCRRA). Child Care Aware can help parents locate quality resources in their local community. Child Care Aware also processes the military child care subsidy for most Services. The subsidy programs include Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood, Operation Military Child Care, and Child Care Assistance for Families of Severely Injured Military Members. Eligibility requirements vary from program to program, and Service-specific information is available on Child Care Aware’s website.

Most military families are also eligible for a free membership to Sittercity, a popular child care website that is a great option for families new to an area that don’t know any babysitters.

What child care resources have worked for you and your family?

katiePosted by Katie Savant, Government Relations Information
Manager at the 
National Military Family Association