New Program Offers Subsidized Child Care to Guard, Reserve
By Samantha L. Quigley
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 4, 2005 The Defense Department has joined forces with national agencies to help Guard and Reserve families in finding and affording child care while Mom or Dad is deployed in support of the global war on terrorism.
"Child care, as you know, is one of the top (concerns) voiced by families as well as by commands on what's needed," said Jan Witte, director of the Pentagon's Office of Children and Youth. Her office monitors the new program, dubbed Operation Military Child Care.
DoD, in partnership with the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, which administers the program, designed this initiative to benefit those who do not live near military installations, Witte said.
"We have a contract with NACCRRA to assist us in finding spaces outside the military community for those Guard and Reserve (members) who are deployed and active duty (people) who are not near a military installation," Witte said. "We also hope to assist in reducing the out-of-pocket expense to the servicemember."
When a parent is deployed, she said, the remaining parent may discover that child care is something the couple hadn't had to think of before. And need is not the only consideration. The extra expense can be shocking.
While OMCC doesn't fully subsidize child care, it does work to reduce the financial burden, Witte said. The fees are based on a sliding scale that takes into consideration total family income and the care provider's actual cost, among other things.
To take part in the program, a family member would apply through NACCRRA via a special Web site or by a toll-free call to (800) 424-2246. The child-care provider also must apply -- an important step because of how the subsidy, which comes through the Children and Youth office, is paid out, Witte noted.
"The subsidy goes to the program, not to the individual," she said.
The program officially kicked off March 3, but has been operational as a pilot program since late November 2004, Witte said. About 40 families are through the application process.
"We feel like this is one area to provide assistance for the total force," she said. "We had not been doing much prior to this time for the Guard and Reserve as far as child care and school-age programs have gone." She said the new program could get about 5,000 Guard and Reserve servicemembers' children into child care.
But that number could fluctuate if there is a change in the funding, she pointed out, which comes in the form of supplemental funding through Congress. Congress has funded the program for $7 million, Witte said, though officials hope to expand the program in the future to try and accommodate some of the 38,000 children of active duty servicemembers in need of child care.
NACCRRA also supports the Guard and Reserve through a program called Operation Child Care. OCC is a voluntary NACCRRA program that provides up to six hours of free child care to Guard and Reserve families whose deployed servicemember is returning home for rest and recuperation.
"(NACCRRA) felt it was service back to the nation to thank the servicemembers for their sacrifices," Witte said.
Witte said NACCRRA is a very well-respected alliance of all the child-care resource and referral agencies in the nation.