DoD has expanded and improved a pilot program to help military families pay for child care in their homes – a program which suffered through a slow start.
Congress authorized the Child Care in Your Home Fee Assistance program as an option to help ease the critical shortage of child care options available for military families; however, a year after the program’s July 2021 launch, DoD officials said just 26 families were receiving fee assistance for in-home child care.
DoD made some positive changes in the second year of the pilot by increasing the amount of fee assistance and implementing a monthly per-child provider rate cap. Most recently, the FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) allowed for the expansion of the pilot program to six additional locations: Colorado Springs, Colo.; Seattle/Tacoma, Wash.; Jacksonville/Mayport and Fort Walton Beach, Fla.; Fayetteville, N.C.; and Las Vegas. These locations will be added to the program’s initial five regions, all of which had high child care demands and the longest wait lists – the National Capital Region; Hawaii; San Diego; Norfolk, Va.; and San Antonio.
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The most significant change to the program is the addition of qualifying family members and lawful permanent residents as eligible providers. Previously, the program required providers to be U.S. citizens. Now, family member providers must be at least 18 years of age and cannot be the parent, stepparent, or legal guardian of the child or children in care.
Additionally, family members hired as child care providers may not live with or be financially dependent on the family where the care is provided. Lawful permanent residents must be at least 18 years of age, hold a high school diploma or equivalent, and read, speak, and write English. All providers must complete required training and background checks. For more information about eligible providers, visit Military OneSource.
Living Up to Its Potential
The community of military service organizations had high hopes for the pilot providing a much-needed child care option for those families with unique needs. Dual-service families, servicemembers with non-traditional working hours, and families with special needs children all need more options than the standard child development center can provide.
Unfortunately, military families applying for in-home care fee assistance were met with a number of challenges, including the length of time required for families and providers to complete the program requirements, the high cost of in-home providers, and the challenges of serving as an employer.
MOAA is hopeful DoD’s changes will result in more military families applying for and receiving fee assistance for in-home child care.
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