Report highlights childcare availability and affordability concerns for military families

Military families often face unique challenges that can make finding steady childcare even more urgent.

They may have a spouse on deployment, or one or both with non-traditional work hours.

Military families also often have to move around and find themselves starting the childcare search all over again frequently.

Now a new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) points to concerns about the availability and affordability of childcare for some military families.

“Concerns included long waitlists and the cost of care, especially for families of more junior service members,” the report said.

The Defense Department subsidizes the cost of childcare on-base and offers fee assistance for families who have to go to a facility off-base if there aren’t any spots available on the installation.

“We have a wait list problem. You know, they can only accommodate so many,” said Caitlin Hamon with the National Military Family Association. “We find that more often than not, the burden will fall on the spouse and what you’ll see is an additional impact because the spouse who might be otherwise able to work, has to take care of the childcare.”

The report pointed out that military families are happy with the quality of the childcare that is available.

“High-quality childcare of the type that is offered by DOD is tied to positive outcomes for children including improved cognitive, social and language development,” said Kathryn Larin, a Director in GAO’s Education, Workforce and Income Security Team.

The DOD operates the largest employer sponsored childcare program in the country and they require their childcare facilities to be nationally accredited, according to the report.

It said the DOD is working on making changes to improve accessibility and cost.

“They are making plans to build more on-base centers,” said Larin. “They’re trying to increase the pool of community-based providers that are eligible for fee assistance and increase the fee assistance that families can get.”

“I think we’re making positive steps by recognizing there is a need,” said Hamon.

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