The services are in various stages of implementing extended hours at military child development centers where the need has been identified, with more facilities upping their daily availability from 12 hours to 14.
The initiative, part of the Force of the Future reforms announced in January 2016 by then-Defense Secretary Ash Carter, aims for facilities to overlap a service member’s normal working shift by at least two hours. For example, if an installation’s normal workday runs 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., the child development center would be open from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Hours of operation at some DoD child development centers have long been an issue for some service members because of their work (and workout) schedules, and a variety of other factors. When he announced the initiative, Carter said nearly half of all military families have to rely on an additional child care provider to meet their needs, in part because the child care hours DoD provides don’t match their demanding schedules.
The extended hours don’t mean children are in the centers for that entire time. The services have rules about how long children can stay, but extensions add flexibility on either end of the day for parents.
For information about child development center hours at a specific installation, visit MilitaryChildCare.com, or call that installation’s CDC. Don’t know the number? Search the Military OneSource installation program directory (at the bottom of its homepage) for “Child Development Centers” on the “program of service” menu.
An update, by service:
Of the 50 Navy installations with child development centers, 42 have implemented the extended hours, operating between 12 to 14 hours a day based on demand, according to Greg Young, child and youth program director for Navy Installations Command.
Of the other eight, four installations have no demand for extended hours and four haven’t implemented the extra hours because of staffing shortages.
Child development centers generally stay open 12 or more hours a day, with early morning, evening and special weekend openings as needed, according to Bill Costlow, a spokesman for Army Installation Management Command.
Of the 190 Army CDCs, 104 open before 6 a.m. (some as early as 4 a.m.). For the late shift, 143 CDCs close at 6 p.m. or later, some as late as 11 p.m.
For example, one of the Fort Jackson, South Carolina, child development centers offers child care from 4 a.m. to 9 p.m. Drill sergeants in particular work extremely long days, Costlow noted.
Officials expect to begin implementing extended hours at 10 installations that have reported the need, according to Air Force spokeswoman Brooke Brzozowske. Of those 10, six of the bases need to extend their hours of operation to 14 a day; the other four asked to remain open for an additional 30 to 60 minutes.
The implementation will start after the first of the year to give officials time to bring on the required additional staff, she said.
The Marine Corps had implemented the policy at all its child development programs by mid-2016, as previously reported by Marine Corps officials.
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.