A program aimed at reducing child care costs and providing options for military parents is coming to more states.

The Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood-Plus program will expand to the Miami-Dade County area in September, to Texas in October and to Colorado in November, said Gilbert Cisneros, Jr., undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

The program, which began in 2019 in Maryland and Virginia, expanded to Nevada in September 2021, and to Washington state in February.

“We’ll continue our concerted effort to educate states on what Military Child Care In Your Neighborhood-Plus can do and encourage their participation, especially in those states where our military families are stationed,” Cisneros said during the Military Child Education Coalition’s Global Summit Wednesday. “We are looking forward to more states joining us in the coming days.”

He said DoD officials are in discussions with officials in California, North Carolina and additional counties in Florida.

“It’s certainly no secret that in certain regions and installations around the country we have challenges in meeting the child care needs of some military parents, especially those who would prefer to get their children into child development centers where they know their children will receive expert care and wonderful developmental and early educational support,” he said.

The Military Child Care In Your Neighborhood-Plus initiative started in October 2019 as a two-year pilot program limited to Maryland and five regions of Virginia.

The current long-standing military fee assistance programs offset the cost of child care in the civilian community when child care isn’t available on the installation. It helps those in locations with long waiting lists for child care, as well as those in assignments that aren’t near a military installation.

The program is meant to bring parents’ child care costs in the community more in line with what they would pay for on-base child care. Child care fees on military installations are based on total family income, and the cost of child care is subsidized by DoD.

The ongoing military fee assistance programs pay the subsidy to nationally-accredited child care providers in the community as the first choice.

The difference in the MCCYN-Plus program is that it pays the subsidy to providers in locations where nationally accredited care isn’t available, to help include more centers and family child care providers. However, if they aren’t nationally accredited, the child care providers must participate in that state’s quality improvement program. That’s over and above required state licensing.

As Cisneros noted, the child care providers have to meet DoD’s “standards for quality, and ensure our military children are cared for in safe and supportive environments.”

The fee assistance subsidy for community-based child care is the difference between what the service member would pay for child care in DoD programs, and the community-based child care provider’s rate, up to a provider rate cap for full-time care.

In 2022, the monthly fee assistance provider rate cap is $1,500 per child per month. In fiscal 2023, all of the military service branches plan to increase the monthly provider rate cap to $1,700 per child per month.

The fee assistance programs can make a substantial difference for families.

For example, if a family is in category 5, making between $60,001 to $70,000 a year in total family income, their monthly fee would be $516 for full-time DoD child care. If their approved community child care provider charges more — up to $1,500 a month — the parent would pay $516, and the rest is subsidized by the military service branch in payments to the provider.

The MCCYN-Plus program means more child care centers and family child care providers could participate in the fee assistance program.

In Virginia, for example, MCCYN-Plus meant a possible expansion to more than 800 additional eligible child care centers in regions with military presence. In Maryland, there are more than 4,600 child care programs that can participate.

The fee assistance programs are administered by Child Care Aware, which also helps families find accredited community based child care providers as the first choice. The child care providers in the MCCYN-Plus program who have a quality level of three or higher in their state’s quality improvement program are made available to families as an alternative.

For more information on military child care fee assistance, families should visit ChildCareAware.org.

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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