The free Sittercity benefit for military families is vanishing as of July 31, but the company still will offer discounts.
The Sittercity Military Program, available nationwide, is an online database that helps find babysitters, nannies, elder care, pet care and other services in the community. The Defense Department has paid for free access to Sittercity for military families since 2010 out of overseas contingency operations funds. Since the contract began in 2010, DoD has paid more than $1.6 million for military families to use the service, said DoD spokesman Navy Lt. Cmdr. Nate Christensen.
Once a family connects with and chooses a provider who meets their needs, the family pays the caregiver. Such a service might come in handy, for example, for military families who need child care while the mother or father goes to a doctor's appointment.
Nearly 110,000 active-duty and reserve component military families have used the service, said Sittercity's Catherine Panzica. Program usage has declined a bit recently, which Panzica said is believed to be due to "the reduction in combat deployments."
Military families have been given access to the service whenever they needed it, without a membership plan. Families that sign up before Aug. 1 will receive a free month, said Panzica. Those who want access afterward can pay for membership at a reduced cost:
Bear in mind that there are other ways to find child care, such as Military OneSource, which can provide information, referrals and consultants to meet just about any need. Families can go to MilitaryOneSource.com or call 800-342-9647.
The main DoD contract for Tutor.com, which provides certified, professional tutoring for military children, 24 hours a day, has been extended through next March, said Pamela Brehm, director of Tutor.com for U.S. Military Families.
The DoD MWR Library Program funds the tutoring. Eligible are children in kindergarten through 12th grade in active-duty Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps families; children of deployed Reserve and National Guard personnel; children of wounded warriors; and surviving children. Eligibility requirements change, so visit www.tutor.com/military/eligibility. You can also send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Active-duty Navy sailors also can receive free tutoring, funded through the Navy General Library Program.
DoD budget constraints have led to some changes in eligibility over the last few years. Initially, the military tutoring program was open to all service members and family members; now, eligibility guidelines list only dependent children.
Since 2009, eligible students in military families have connected to the Tutor.com program for one-on-one online sessions more than 1.5 million times, Brehm said.
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.