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Rule Change Gives Troops Priority for Child Care

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U.S. Army
Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Children of active-duty troops will get “priority access” to Defense Department child care programs beginning June 1, according to a policy change signed by Defense Secretary Mark Esper.

As a result of the new policy, some families may be bumped from DoD child care centers. Families affected by the change will be notified beginning in June, and they’ll have 45 days to find alternative care, according to information from the Pentagon.

“The department’s system of child care was established to assist service members as they face the unique challenges associated with the demands of military service,” said Virginia Penrod, acting assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs, in a statement. 

Over time, child care access was expanded to serve the total force, Penrod said, but “we must not lose sight of the service member and mission requirements. We must ensure that our military members and families have the support needed in order to be mission ready.”

According to the memo signed Feb. 21 by Esper, children of direct care staff members as well as children of single or dual active-duty members, single or dual National Guard or Reserve members on active-duty or inactive duty training status, and service members with a full-time working spouse have the highest priority.

Lower on the priority list are children of DoD civilian employees as well as those who qualify as space becomes available. These patrons include children of active-duty service members with a non-working spouse and DoD contractors.

“We acknowledge this policy change presents a challenge for some families,” said Kim Joiner, acting deputy secretary of defense for military community and family policy, in a statement. “The department is committed to ensuring our military members have the care they need to be mission-ready.”

DoD officials added that the age of the child and the waitlist at their respective child care center will determine if currently enrolled families will be impacted. Each service is now developing guidance relating to the policy change and will inform parents when more information is available, according to DoD.

Military parents should continue to use the Pentagon’s MilitaryChildCare.com system to request care. Everyone’s priority is verified at the time of enrollment and once a year after that.

To read the full memo and for more details on the priority list, click here.