Thursday, September 17, 2009

Family resources: Child Care

The Defense Department Child Development Program is the largest employer-sponsored child care program in the country, serving some 200,000 children from newborn to age 12. It includes child development centers, family child care homes and school-age care programs on and off installations.

The Defense Department and services are working to expand existing facilities at locations with long waiting lists and high deployment rates.

In support of the war effort, the services have extended hours of operation and, in some cases, paid for extra child care for members who work extended hours, have shifts changes or have child care emergencies.

Child development centers:
Centers generally are open 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Many offer hourly care for medical appointments and other needs, but space is limited and reservations are usually required.

Each center must meet standards for curriculum, safety and health.

Fees are calculated on a sliding scale based on total family income. The Defense Department sets a minimum and maximum fee range, and individual installations can set their fees anywhere within those ranges.

For the current school year, families in the lowest annual income category, up to $28,000, pay $43 to $62 a week, regardless of the child’s age. The highest range, for those with total family income of $70,001 or more, is $107 to $129 a week.

In-home care:
Spouses can become licensed to provide child care in their homes. In-home providers set their own fees. In some cases, installation commanders subsidize in-home providers so military families pay fees in line with those charged in centers. Most, but not all, providers live on base.

School-age care:
These programs for children ages 6 to 12 are held before and/or after school, during holidays and over summer breaks in youth centers, child-development centers and in-home child care. The Defense Department sets fee guidelines for this care.

Youth programs:
The military offers youth programs that focus on alternative activities during out-of-school hours. More than 350 programs exist worldwide, many in partnership with the Boys and Girls Clubs of America, 4-H and other organizations.

Programs usually include physical fitness and sports; arts; recreation; training in leadership, life skills and career/volunteer opportunities; mentoring, intervention and support services. Some programs offer help in finding summer jobs.

Fees are charged to offset the cost of activities.