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Helping Military Families Navigate Child Care Challenges

At Operation Child Care Project, we have the privilege of assisting military families with child care needs who want to be ready to serve the mission and need solutions for those they care about the most. The most impactful piece of this work is listening intently to these stories, especially since most families who reach out say that they don't feel heard.


We have a guest blog writer who was kind enough to detail her story before finding Operation Child Care Project™. Her story is not unique; we hear similar stories from families daily. We know that childcare access affects mission readiness and retention, mental health, unemployment, food, and financial security. Our mission is to address the underlying truth: childcare is at the core of most, if not all, issues that military families face.


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Mom with child

"Child care has been a point of stress since before our first baby was born almost nine months ago. The greatest challenges are common to many: accessibility, affordability and quality.


We entered active duty life in 2020 when many programs had stopped, and we have thus played catch up in many ways. Prior to the baby’s birth in 2023, I knew from social media groups that we would likely encounter long wait lists. We proactively began researching before the baby was born.


In January of 2023, we PCSed across the country for six months where I had the baby in April. We then PCSed to another state in June after her birth. Following my (mostly unpaid) maternity leave, my spouse still had about eight weeks of leave. I was returning to my salaried, 20-hour per week remote job.



Having just moved to the area without any family support and trying to rebuild any community support once again, it was my goal to find a part-time solution. I felt confident that I could find a way.


Not knowing where to begin, I started with CYS. The site advertised a Family Child Care briefing. This was perfect because we needed someone informed who could point us in the right direction. This optimism faded, however, when I realized the number listed routed me to the commissary. The other numbers and modes of contact didn’t work, either.

At that point, I figured we would have to find a non-military solution and I began searching for a center with infant availability. But I soon realized how expensive and inaccessible this process would be. It was more complicated than I expected. I encountered waitlist after waitlist.


The primary issue was knowing the order of steps to obtain child care funding assistance. Do we start with MYCCN? Or CYS? Or an FCC briefing? Or a community care center? We tried to start at each of these points to no avail. I heard about Child Care Aware by chance when my baby was already seven months old.




Mom with child

We interviewed individuals for private in-home care, but soon realized this, too, was going to require most of my paycheck for the days and times required.


A couple of months ago, feeling paralyzed with the process and overwhelmed by decision fatigue, I set it all aside. To get my work hours in, I woke up at 4:00 a.m. to get in as many work hours as possible before my spouse left for work. I worked during her naps. I worked into the evening upon his return. This meant my work day never truly stopped, and

neither did my care responsibilities. My spouse would put the baby to bed and wake up with her at night, but I was working from before sun up to past sundown. Even this routine eventually became untenable because of his morning PT sessions and other unexpected morning events.






Eventually, I cut my salaried part-time hours, and when that did not help, went freelance to take some time pressure off. Due to student loans, quitting work completely was not an option. Patching together hours during periodic drop-in care times, nap times and post-bed times, it is possible—but it remains a fragile (and stressful) system as we wait and work to find something better.


Over the past nine months since our baby’s birth, we have done hours and hours of work, research, paperwork, vetting, calling, interviewing, asking around and more—to little effect. In the wake of my decision fatigue, my spouse took over and has been able to make some progress with stops and starts.


Looking back, there are many things I would have done differently. The fact remains, however, that we simply didn’t know what we didn’t know. The channels we knew about at the time (briefings, phone numbers, online searching) were technically available, but ultimately the key resources we needed were inaccessible when we needed them. Even as

people with an action-oriented, make-it-happen attitude, at nine months post-birth, our baby remains on waitlists and we have yet to secure a long-term solution."


Army, Active Duty Spouse

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