Options for Improving the Military Child Care System

DoD may also want to invest more resources in assessing the value of child care benefits, as it does for other military compensation components."--Publisher's website.

Options for Improving the Military Child Care System

The U.S. military child care system is the largest employer-sponsored child care system in the nation, widely recognized for providing high-quality care. A range of different settings enables the system to meet military parents' needs for reliable, high-quality care while recognizing parental preferences concerning environment, size (the number of children cared for in that provider setting), and flexibility. Subsidies based on family income ensure affordability. Despite its size, the military child care system serves only a small percentage of eligible families needing child care assistance. Care in Child Development Centers (CDCs) is quite costly for DoD to provide; care for the youngest children is particularly expensive since parent fees are based on family income and not on the cost of care. Care in Family Child Care (FCC) homes is substantially less costly. There is little evidence that the care provided in DoD-run CDCs and FCC homes addresses DoD employer goals of increased readiness, retention, and recruitment. Moreover, families that cannot or choose not to use CDC or FCC care receive no help covering their child care expenses. Moreover, they may rely on care that is mediocre, given their often limited financial resources and the fact that the average quality of care in civilian communities is generally not high. The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness asked RAND researchers to use the insight they have gained during several previous studies on military child care to reexamine military child care as a compensation issue and evaluate options for transforming the current military child care system. In this paper, we provide an overview of the military child care system and assess the system's success in cost-effectively meeting DoD readiness, retention, and recruitment goals. In particular, we consider the logic of DoD offering military child care as an in-kind benefit.

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