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Coordinating Child Care for Military Families

Children playing

Source: DoD photo by Staff Sgt. Marie Brown, U.S. Air Force/Released

The demands of military life can be challenging for families, especially for working parents. Arranging safe, nurturing child care is important to help you meet your family and professional responsibilities, and coordinating the appropriate care for your child can help strengthen your family's psychological well-being and resilience. The tips and tools in this article can help you identify child care options or make the change to a new care provider seamless for your child.

Child Care Resources for Military Households

It is essential to find safe and nurturing child care to support your child's developmental needs and also give you peace of mind while your child is away. The military services offer multiple child care programs to support military families, including:1

  • Child Development Centers (CDCs) that provide safe, affordable, quality child care and meet national accreditation standards for early childhood development for children ages six weeks to 12 years.
  • Family Child Care (FCC) programs that provide in-home child care by installation-certified providers. The programs provide flexible hours, a family-like setting and activities based on real life experiences in the home and neighborhood. Each program varies, but FCC homes typically care for infants, toddlers and children 12 years old and younger.2
  • School Age Care (SAC) programs that provide before and after school care, as well as summer and holiday programs, for children ages 5 to 12 years old. SAC programs help children complete homework assignments as well as guide activities such as arts, crafts and outdoor exploration.
  • Youth programs that provide a wide variety of safe, age-appropriate activities for youth in structured developmental settings on and off military installations. Programs for youth include:
    • Instructional programs that provide opportunities for youth to develop new skills and learn in "hands-on" informal settings. Programs cover a wide range of topics including photography, woodworking, science and technology, gardening, and health and safety.
    • Recreational sports programs that provide numerous opportunities for youth to challenge themselves physically year-round, while developing important life skills such as good sportsmanship and teamwork.
    • Educational and development programs that provide youth with character-building activities that develop skills such as public speaking and leadership.

To find child care or youth programs near you, search for resources at your installation using the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS database. If there is a waiting list for child care, talk to your installation's CDC or Resource and Referral Office to clarify the criteria for enrollment and to learn more about how a family's status is determined. For more information about waiting lists, read the Military OneSource article, Questions to Ask about Military Child Care Waiting Lists.

Preparing Your Child for Daycare

The transition into a daycare, a home care center or before/after-school care can be a challenging experience for a young child. To minimize anxiety for both you and your child, try some of the following ideas:3

  • Talk to your child about what is happening. You can reduce a lot of fears by having a conversation about the new situation. Try reading a book or watching a show about going to daycare to start the conversation.
  • Project a positive attitude about child care. Your child will feel better about going to daycare if you feel good about it too.
  • Try to visit the child care facility with your child before he or she starts attending. Visiting the center and allowing your child to explore and interact with others while you are there will help him or her feel more comfortable.
  • Establish good communication with your child care provider. Let him or her know as much as possible about your child's personality, behaviors, likes and dislikes. Working with the provider will enable both of you to help your child adjust to the new situation.
  • Expect a reasonable amount of adjustment time. Every child is different – some will seemingly adapt overnight and others may need a few months. Check in with both your child and care provider regularly to make sure that the situation is a good fit.

To learn more about communicating with your child, read the Real Warriors Campaign article Helping Toddlers to Preteens Communicate About Changes.

Preparing Child Care Providers for the Transition

Just as it is crucial to prepare your child for times of change and transition, it is equally as important to prepare the child care provider to take over care responsibilities. By educating your child care provider on how best to support your child's personality, behaviors and emotional needs in advance, you can prevent challenges from occurring and make the transition as smooth as possible for your child.4

  • Provide medical information, including medications, allergy information and contact information of your family physician. If needed, be prepared to submit appropriate medical forms signed by the family physician for the care provider to dispense medication to your child.
  • Relay daily routine information such as the time your child is picked up from school, what he or she typically eats for an afternoon snack and when they are expected to complete homework. Maintaining these habits will ease the transition for your child as they become accustomed to spending more time with their care provider.
  • If applicable, determine the amount, the frequency and method in which you will pay your child care provider for his or her services. Having these details confirmed ahead of time will help maintain your relationship with your child's care provider and prevent potentially uncomfortable conversations down the road.

Additional Resources


1 "Military Child Care Programs," Military OneSource. Last accessed on March 3, 2014.

2 "About Army Family Child Care," Army Family Child Care Online. Last accessed on March 3, 2014.

3 "Preparing Children for Child Care," University of Minnesota. Last accessed on March 3, 2014.

4 "2011 Military Deployment Guide," [PDF 2.76MB] Defense Department. Last accessed on March 3, 2014.

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