Military families have another option to help them find hourly and on-demand child care, defense officials said.
Through Military OneSource, families will get a paid subscription to a service that lets them search for child care providers in the nationally recognized Sittercity.com. Parents can search the database of more than one million potential care providers based on their own needs and criteria, then check references and review background checks of those providers. Parents can interview, hire and pay child care providers on their own terms.
DoD doesn’t pay for the child care through the site. DoD pays for the subscription to the service that provides connections to available child care providers. According to information on Sittercity.com, parents normally pay $35 a month for the subscription; $49 for three months; or $98 for 12 months.
Families can find out more about the service at MilitaryOneSource.mil, or by calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647. The free service can only be accessed through that DoD website, which provides a special code to be used at Sittercity.com.
The service is available to currently serving military families, and for up to one year after retirement or separation from service.
“This is promising. There’s a great need for this in the military community,” said Nicole Russell, government relations deputy director for the National Military Family Association. “How are spouses supposed to go to job interviews if they don’t have child care, or even to a doctor’s appointment?”
DoD and the services have been trying to address child care shortages overall, and have recognized the need for this flexible, hourly child care for military families. Some installation child development centers offer hourly care, and some family child care providers do, but military child development centers have even fewer child care openings available now with phased re-openings and safety requirements for social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. And many parents are looking for flexible options as their schools are opening with remote-only learning.
“We are committed to taking care of our service members and military families, and understand that families may need assistance with their hourly care needs,” said Kim Joiner, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, in an announcement. “This new service provides a flexible way that empowers modern military families to find child care services that best meet their hourly care needs.”
DoD officials have been exploring ways to increase the availability of child care for military families, including giving military families higher priority in child development centers, and testing ways to expand the fee assistance program. That program, through Child Care Aware, helps working parents find child care of good quality in the civilian community and helps pay for some of the cost of child care from these approved civilian providers. Lawmakers have also taken steps to increase child care spaces, and have urged DoD to explore more options for child care.
This is not the first time DoD has formed a partnership with Sittercity. From 2010 to 2015, DoD provided free subscriptions to active-duty and reserve component families using the service to find child care, paying more than $1.6 million for about 110,000 military families to use the service.
Sittercity was recently acquired by Bright Horizons, a provider of child care and early education, back-up care, and workplace education services, partnering with employers for more than 30 years. Bright Horizons operates about 1,100 child care centers in the U.S., the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Canada and India and serves more than 1,200 organizations.
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.