The online gateway designed to make it easier for military parents to find child care has finished rolling out to all Army, Air Force, Marine and Navy installations worldwide, officials said.

The last seven locations, all Air Force bases, came on board on Aug. 10: Edwards (California), Eglin (Florida), Hill (Utah), Kirtland (New Mexico), Robins (Georgia), Tinker (Oklahoma) and Wright-Patterson (Ohio).

Defense and service officials launched in January 2015, and have gradually implemented it at groups of installations, to ensure a smooth transition at each location. The number of families using the child care portal is growing, with 141,287 families registered and using the system for their child care needs as of Aug. 23, according to Greg Young, Navy Child and Youth Program Director for Navy Installations Command. The Navy is the executive agent for the program for all the services.

DoD provides child care each day for about 180,000 children ranging in age from birth to 12 years. The system includes more than 700 child development centers, school-age care facilities and about 2,600 family child care homes, at over 230 locations worldwide.

Yet the lack of available military child care has been a persistent issue for service members. While officials are taking other steps to increase the availability of child care, this gateway gives parents more visibility over what child care slots are available that might meet their needs. The goal of the program is to reduce the wait time for child care, and to give parents timely information about the status of their care requests.

The central gateway allows parents to search online, from anywhere in the world, for military child care of a variety of types at multiple installations in any given area. Parents can submit unlimited requests and be placed on multiple waiting lists.

In the past, each installation maintained its own waiting list; the website means parents no longer have to sign up for waiting lists in person. If offered a space at one program, parents can accept while remaining on waiting lists for other locations they may prefer.

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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