New pilot program will give Army Guard members childcare on drill days

The program will help parents who are struggling to find weekend care.

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The Army National Guard is embarking on a new pilot program to provide service members with childcare for their weekend drill sessions.

The program will start in September in six states: Massachusetts, New Mexico, New Hampshire, Washington State, Virginia and Ohio. The care will be free and take in children from six weeks to 12 years of age.

The National Guard will pair with Child Care Aware of America, a not-for-profit organization focused on affordable childcare, to find available providers.

According to a memo obtained by Federal News Network, troops must show that they have no other option at home to care for children in order to qualify for the program. After approval, the Guard will pay for 12 hours of childcare per day of drilling.

“Currently, 35% (118,000) of ARNG Service members have children with 9% (30,000) being single parents who account for 36,000 children between newborn and 12 years old,” Catalina Carrasco, a spokeswoman for the National Guard, told Federal News Network. “Many of these soldiers have difficulty finding quality childcare within weekend drill period hours which inhibits their ability to attend drill.”

The Guard came to the conclusion that it needed the program after discussions with the state adjutants general. The officials said many service members have spouses who work weekends and the Guard needed to do something to address the gap.

Soldiers can start applying for the program on Sept. 1 and then will be able to reserve childcare for November starting on Oct. 1. If the program is successful it could go nationwide by July 2023.

The program highlights the ongoing lack of childcare for service members and a shortage of providers and staff throughout the nation.

“The Department of Defense operates the largest employer-sponsored child care program in the United States, serving approximately 200,000 children of uniformed service members and DoD civilians, and employing over 23,000 child care workers, at an annual cost of over $1 billion,” a Congressional Research Service study from 2020 states. “In 2019, the Navy reported 9,000 families on waiting lists, mainly concentrated in fleet areas. The Army reported approximately 5,000 children on its wait lists, primarily infants and toddlers. Reported wait lists for the Air Force and Marine Corps were 3,200 and 800 children, respectively.”

Part of the issue for the shortage of DoD childcare providers is the need for a lengthy background check process to work on bases.

DoD recently announced that it is expanding its Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood – Plus pilot program in an attempt to ease some of the childcare burden. The program provides fee assistance to military families to find private childcare providers.

The Pentagon is expanding the program to southern Florida, Texas and Colorado by November.


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