DoD Child Care Cited as Model for Nation
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 17, 2000 -- When it comes to child care, military families have
the best America has to offer, according to a study by the National Women's Law Center
Nancy Duff Campbell, group co-director, presented the report to Defense Secretary
William S. Cohen here May 16 and cited DoD's child development program for its quality,
affordability and availability.
The report, "Be All That We Can Be: Lessons From the Military for Improving Our
Nation's Child Care System," shows how the military transformed a "seriously deficient"
child care system into a national model for child care reform, Campbell said at a
Pentagon press conference.
Sens. Chris Dodd of Connecticut and Jim Jeffords of Vermont also attended the briefing
and echoed Campbell's praise. They stressed the need for child care reform in the
civilian community, where hundreds of thousands of families are on waiting lists.
Dodd, who hailed the military program as the nation's "gold standard," said people
can't be expected to function well in any endeavor if they're worried about their
children. Jeffords pointed out that absenteeism caused by poor quality child care
costs American business more than $3 billion a year. Both salute the military's 10-year
effort to provide quality care.
"Just a decade ago," Campbell said, "child care in the military was plagued by
problems that are all too familiar to civilian families today. Tens of thousands of
children were on waiting lists for care. Military families could not afford care even
if they could find it. Caregivers lacked training and were so poorly compensated that
they didn't stay long in the field, and the quality of care suffered."
Because the lack of child care affected recruiting, retention and readiness, the
military committed the necessary resources and built a system that links child care
centers, family child care homes, after-school programs and resource and referral
services. The program currently meets 58 percent of military families' child care
need, Campbell said, and the department is moving steadily towards its goal of meeting
80 percent of the need by 2005.
Cohen, who as a senator voted for the Military Child Care Act of 1989, acknowledged
that Pentagon policymakers and military commanders alike have made child care a priority.
He said DoD now offers about 200,000 children "comprehensive, credible and consistent"
"Where our force once was largely comprised of single men, today nearly half of
our men and women in uniform are also fathers and mothers," he said. "We simply can't
afford to have our service members worried about the basic well-being of their families."
Contrasting child care in military and civilian communities, Campbell called on
state and federal lawmakers to learn from the military's success.
"The need is no less great, no less urgent, no less compelling for such a commitment
outside the military," she said. "More than 95 percent of the military child development
centers are accredited by outside experts, compared to only 8 percent of civilian
child care centers. Today, all children in military child care centers are cared for
by staff who receive basic pre-service training, unlike the children in 31 states
whose laws and regulations require no such training."
Campbell noted that the Defense Department has also addressed affordability, with
subsidies and sliding fee schedules based on family income. "As a result, the average
weekly fee paid by military families is some 25 percent lower than the average weekly
fee paid by civilian families for comparable center-based care," she said.
Military facilities pay better than civilian counterparts, she added. The entry
level wage for caregivers at military centers is nearly $8 an hour and increases to
$10 after core competency training. The average wage for a civilian caregiver is only
$7.40 an hour -- a civilian provider in a family child care home earns only $4.70
"It's time, indeed, past time, for the civilian sector to catch up," Campbell said.
With 70 percent of women with children now in the labor force, demand for civilian
child care is at an all-time high. Yet too often, it's unaffordable or simply unavailable.
"The military's experience teaches us that it doesn't have to be this way," she
stressed. DoD has shown the quality of care can be raised by setting comprehensive
standards and enforcing them with unannounced inspections, increasing provider training
and pay, and helping providers meet the standards required by outside accreditation.
The National Women's Law Center report highlights six lessons civilian officials
can glean from the transformation of DoD's child care system:
For more information, visit DoD's Child
Development Program Web site at http://dticaw.dtic.mil/milchild. Information and
resources are also available by calling DoD's national clearing house at 1-888-237-3040.
- Do not be daunted by the task. It is possible to take a woefully inadequate child
care system and dramatically improve it.
- Recognize and acknowledge the seriousness of the child care problem and the consequences
- Improve quality by establishing and enforcing comprehensive standards, assisting
providers in becoming accredited and enhancing provider compensation and training.
- Keep child care fees affordable through subsidies.
- Expand the availability of all kinds of care by continually assessing unmet needs
and taking steps to address them.
- Commit the resources necessary to get the job done.
For more information on the National Women's Law Center or to read the report go
to www.nwlc.org or call 202-588-5180.
||Ensuring service members have a good quality of life "isn't a
nicety, it's a military necessity," Defense Secretary William S. Cohen said at a Pentagon
press conference saluting DoD child development programs. Cohen on May 16 received
a report from the National Women's Law Center that lavished praise on military child
care as a model for the nation. The secretary said the Defense Department has made
great strides over the past 10 years in recognizing the needs of military parents.
Photo by Linda D. Kozaryn (Click thumbnail for screen-resolution image; high-resolution
||Sens. Chris Dodd (left) and Jim Jeffords were on hand at the Pentagon
to echo the National Women's Law Center's praise for DoD's child development program.
The center May 16 presented Defense Secretary William Cohen with its report on military
child care, which extols the program as a model for the nation. Dodd hailed DoD's
program as the "gold standard." Jeffords pointed out that absenteeism caused by poor
quality child care costs American businesses more than $3 billion a year. Photo by
Linda D. Kozaryn. (Click thumbnail for screen-resolution image; high-resolution