Military Families With Young Kids Face Mounting Child Care Challenges, Study Finds

Filed under: In The News, Childcare

military families

Military families struggle with early child care, a new survey finds. Credit: Getty

It's one thing for most working parents to try to orchestrate child care from 9 to 5, but imagine dealing with the nanny coming down with the flu and other scheduling woes when you're stationed in Iraq.

Juggling the work/family balance requires the skills of a military strategist, but that doesn't make it any easier for parents in the armed services, deployed or stationed at home, who say stressing over early care for their kids tops their daily to-do lists, according to a study by Pre-K Now, a campaign of the Pew Center on the States.

"On the Home Front: Early Care and Education a Top Priority for Military Families" finds the cost and long waiting lists for military-provided child care leave military families struggling with the challenge of finding child care, parenting classes and high-quality pre-kindergarten services, a Pew press release states.

The survey tapped 500 military families in all branches of service with children younger than 10 -- including those on active duty, in the National Guard and Reserve personnel, the release says.

Adding stress to the child care juggle are frequent relocations, the cycle of deployment, preparation, separation and all the disruptions that come with the duties of the job, which can have "profound emotional and educational consequences for children in military households," according to the release.

Families who make it through the long waiting lines and are able to utilize the Department of Defense's (DOD) Child Care Development Centers (CDCs) are satisfied with the care offered to their families.

However, only half of eligible families take advantage of the services because of obstacles such as long lines and costs, the report finds.

"Military parents need reliable access to high-quality early care and education to reduce worry and minimize the disruption caused by frequent and repeated deployment," retired Army Maj. Gen. James W. Comstock, who serves on the executive advisory committee of Mission: Readiness, a national security nonprofit group of 200 retired generals and admirals, says in the release. "Policy makers need to provide increased access to early childhood education to prepare military children for success in school and in life."

Almost 90 percent of military families surveyed say they overwhelmingly support free, voluntary and high-quality pre-k programs for all children, the release says.

"The children of our nation's military personnel experience a unique set of social, emotional and educational challenges," Marci Young, director of Pre-K Now, says in the release. "High-quality pre-k programs can provide stability and foster the skills these children need to cope with change and prepare them for kindergarten."

Efforts to help military families already are underway. Last December, the National Association of Child Care Resource & Referral Agencies (NACCRRA) announced The Military Child Care Liaison Initiative, a two-year pilot program with the Department of Defense to expand the availability of quality and affordable community-based child care for military families.

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