Military Spouses & Family
Nothing can make a workday worse than having to worry about child care. Quell your anxiety by choosing a trustworthy and well-maintained child-care facility with our daycare checklists:
Your first (and best) strategy for finding a reliable daycare center or sitter should be through word-of-mouth recommendations. Ask friends, family members, coworkers, your child's primary care manager (PCM) and other military moms for their recommendations.
Work with your child's personality
A daycare center or preschool that works for one child may not work for another. Visit each potential facility and sit in on the day's activities. Consider your child's temperament and social skills. Shy kids may get lost in the shuffle at a larger facility. Similarly, gregarious children may not get the stimulation they need at a center that is too small. Pick a center that will help your child grow both academically and socially.
What about academics?
Consider your academic goals for your child. Will your child learn their letters and numbers? Are there art projects? Or is the center just one big recess the whole day? Don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions.
The day care visit checklist
- Is the facility licensed in your state?
- Is the facility accredited?
- Is the facility clean?
- Are there age appropriate toys?
- Are there guidelines for washing hands, toys and other surfaces?
- Are there active and quiet play areas?
- How does your child react to the environment? Do they seem comfortable there?
- Is the outdoor play area fenced-in and age appropriate?
- Have the caregivers had CPR and first aid training?
- Does the center have written policy on discipline, snack -times, nap times, and toileting?
- Are the meals that are served nutritious and well-made?
- What is the policy for caring for sick children? Are they asked to stay home? Is there a separate room for monitoring the ill? How is medicine given? Is there a nurse or doctor to help with medical care? Are vaccinations required before admission?
- Are there enough staff?
- Are the staff on -duty for long shifts or are the kids exposed to new providers several times per day?
- Are the kids split into small groups?
The Red Flag Checklist
Not all daycare facilities are reputable. If you see or experience any of the following, reconsider enrolling or continuing to enroll your child:
- Your questions and concerns are not properly addressed by the staff.
- Your child comes home unhappy or tells you about problems they had at daycare.
- You hear other children or parents complain about the care.
- There are repeated mysterious accidents.
- The staff has a high turnover rate.
- The facility can't give you a written copy of their operational policies.
- The staff is not well-qualified and has no formal training in child-care.
- The center's license is expired.
- The facility has no set daily schedule. Children should have actual activities to do and not just allowed to play or watch television.
Department of Defense Military Child Development System (CDS)
The Department of Defense (DoD) has the largest network of employer-based childcare in the country. Childcare is provided on a daily basis in over 800 Child Development Centers both in the U.S. and overseas.
The CDS offers subsidized full-day, half-day, part-day, extended hour and hourly childcare every day of the week in four types of facilities:
Child Development Centers (CDC)
These facilities offer child care for children ages six weeks to 12 years old. Care is typically available weekdays from 6 am to 6:30 pm. The average CDC cares for about 200 children and must be accredited by the DoD and the National Association for the Education of Young Children.
With in-home childcare, children receive their care in the private home of a licensed provider. Family child-care provides a greater range of services than a CDC. In-home providers can walk school-age children to and from the school bus stop, drive them to after-school activities and care for them when they are mildly sick.
In-home childcare centers can offer comparable care to a CDC. Providers must be certified by the DoD, and many seek additional accreditation from the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Regulations also require that these facilities provide for a very limited number of children: no more than six charges under age eight, and no more than two charges under two years old.
School-age care (SAC)
School age care is designed to complement classroom activities. SAC care facilities are usually open before and after school, during holidays and during the summer for day camps. These programs usually take place in youth centers or schools, but may be run in conjunction with the Boys and Girls Club or a 4-H club.
In addition to their normal after-school care arrangements, parents can opt to have their children participate in a youth program. Youth programs are extracurricular activities such as a sports league, academic club or open recreation. The programs are open to children ages 6 to 18. Children under 12 are more likely to be enrolled in structured activities, like a class, while those over 12 may participate in an open gym or a sports team.
Due to a high demand for care, you may be wait-listed. Your position on the list depends on many factors that are at the discretion of the installation and may include your husband's military status, the date you apply, deployment and your employment. If these factors change while you are on the wait list, your position will be changed accordingly, so it is important that you keep your information up-to-date.
Some installations have two separate waiting lists: active and inactive. The active list is for parents who need child-care within two weeks. The inactive list places parents who will need care within three weeks to a year. This enables expecting mothers to place themselves on a wait-list before their child is actually born.
Child-care is not an entitlement, and fees are income-based. Generally, military-based child care is cheaper than civilian care, but you may be able to find a better deal with a civilian provider if you live overseas or in an area with a low-cost of living.
To apply for child care, fill out DD Form 2652, Application for Department of Defense Child Care Fees and DD Form 2606, the Department of Defense Child Development Program Request for Care Record and return them to the Resource and Referral (R&R) office at your installation.