Coast Guard officials are digging into child care challenges of their active duty and civilian families, with an online survey, focus groups and a market analysis.

The study will also assess how effective current child care programs and policies are, and will be used to develop a plan, policy and guidance for child development services, according to an administrative message sent Tuesday from Rear Adm. Joanna M. Nunan, assistant commandant for human resources.

Coast Guard active duty and civilian employees should be on the lookout for an email invitation in late spring to participate in the online survey. A more specific time frame was not immediately available from Coast Guard officials. Information was not available about whether participants in the survey and focus groups will be anonymous, although participants usually are in this type of study.

The child care needs assessment is being conducted by the Coast Guard Office of Work Life, Family Services Division. But the email will come from the contractor, ICF-Miracle Systems, LLC and COMDT (CG-112), and officials are advising unit leaders and supervisors to alert their members and employees to participate, and to explain the emails are not spam. They’re also asked to explain that voluntary participation is highly encouraged in the survey, interviews and focus groups.

Focus groups will be held at 10 locations through the months of March to June. The contractor has begun coordination for Coast Guard bases in Alameda, Calif.; Boston; Charleston, S.C.; Cleveland; Kodiak, Alaska; Miami; New Orleans; Portsmouth, Va.; Seattle; and Washington.

The contractor is also doing a market analysis of child care in 25 remote counties and cities where Coast Guard active duty and civilian employees live.

A recent Defense Department policy change that takes effect June 1 will move active duty Coast Guard members further down on the priority list for DoD child care. It will also bump some of their children out of child care if active duty Army, Navy, Air Force or Marine Corps children need the care and will be on a wait list for more than 45 days. Some Coast Guard families in the Washington area have expressed concern about the instability the new policy will cause for them, and likely disruption for their children.

The families noted it’s difficult to find child care in their area within 45 days, which is the amount of notice they will receive before their child is displaced. Some have already begun looking for alternative child care for their children, and are having difficulty.

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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