A new app that allows military families to “sublet” their child care slots on a short-term basis will be rolled out to all Air Force child development centers by July 2024, officials said.
Kinderspot, which was the brainchild of Air Force Maj. Jacque Vasta, allows families who are enrolled at a participating Air Force child development center to offer their weeklong blocks of time to other families when they’re away from the child care center, while receiving a credit to their account when another family rents their spot.
It is currently available at 29 installations, including five that launched on Nov. 15: Beale Air Force Base and Vandenberg Space Force Base, California; Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington; Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany; and Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.
As of November, the app had 6,200 users, and had facilitated the rental of nearly 3,700 short-term child care spots, according to Shannon Carabajal, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center. The Air Force began field-testing the app in the summer of 2021.
So far, no other branches of the military have expressed interest in adopting Kinderspot, at least as far as the Air Force Services Center is aware, Carabajal said.
However, Kinderspot is available at Air Force-operated child development centers at five joint bases: Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C.; Joint Base Andrews, Maryland; Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska; Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia; and Joint Base San Antonio, Texas.
The next bases scheduled for the Kinderspot rollout in mid-December are Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota; F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming; Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas; Moody Air Force Base, Georgia; and Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska.
Defense and service officials have been working on various ideas to help meet the need for child care among military parents.
Kinderspot fills a need for parents whose children are attending child development centers, as well as those who need short-term child care. Parents are required to pay for weeks that their children are away — such as when the family is on leave or when the service member is away on temporary duty. But by using this app, they can sublet their child’s vacant spot, and the family saves money because they won’t have to pay for the time their child is away. The amount is credited to their account.
Families without a child currently enrolled at a child development center must complete paperwork to become a verified renter at their center before booking available weeks through the app. The rental fees are paid directly to the center at the renter’s rate. That rate is based on the family’s total family income, not the total family income fee of the family who has the permanent child care space.
The Kinderspot app is available for download on Apple and Android devices. The participating centers validate all the users of the app to make sure they are eligible to offer a spot or to rent a spot.
The child subletting a child care slot must be in the same age group as the child who has the permanent spot in the child development center. The subletting families aren’t subject to the DoD priority system for child development centers because they aren’t holding full-time child care spaces, Carabajal said.
“As soon as my base adopted Kinderspot, I used the app and was able to sublet my child’s CDC spot for a week,” said Lt. Col. Kelly Atkinson, in an Air Force announcement about the expansion. “The program was easy to use, clear and intuitive. Best of all, Kinderspot not only helped my family save on child care costs but also ensured another military family had access to child care for that week,” said Atkinson, who is stationed at the Air Force Academy in Colorado.
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.