Dealing With the Daycare Dilemma
Getting the right care at the right price
August 20, 2013 by Mark Dye
One of the biggest mistakes my wife and I made with our son was not doing our research or being prepared to make a pretty big decision: what to do about daycare. We just figured that when the time came, we’d call, find a spot, and **POOF** problem solved!
Well, we were wrong. So very, very wrong.
We must have called more than a dozen places before finally—and with some good luck—finding one with an opening. It was small, filled with a caring staff, on the way to work and, more importantly, affordable.
Thankfully, military families don’t need to rely on luck, as they have a number of options for daycare.
The military runs on-base “Child Development Centers” (CDC) that cater to children from six weeks old through five years. They offer both full (usually 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.) and part-time care, and pricing is based on your income level, which is great for young families just starting out. You can find what’s available on each installation at MilitaryInstallations.dod.mil; just select “Child Development Centers” from the “select a program or service” dropdown menu.
“Family Child Care” homes (sometimes called child development homes) are also an option. They are smaller in scope, can be on or off base, and are usually open during workday hours, though some might also offer evening and weekend options. This makes them a good fit if you’re a military spouse who works evenings or some weekends.
If you’re a spouse returning the workforce, or have older kids you want in some sort of program, there are also Youth Centers and Youth Programs on post that offer a variety of activities for kids up to high school age. Again, you can search what is available at a particular installation at MilitaryInstallations.dod.mil.
Other options include churches, for-profit care and learning centers, and even family members (which could very well be the best bet financially). If you do have a friend or family member watch your child, have them take a class in infant and child CPR, and ensure the location is childproofed, such as having locks on cabinets with dangerous chemicals.
The More you Know
Of course, the key to all of this is to do it as early as possible. In fact, you should go ahead and start doing your research as soon as you find out that you’re going to be parents. That might seem a tad early, but it allows you to take tours of multiple centers, ask plenty of questions, check that they have met all the necessary licensing requirements, and make sure the fees fit within your budget. (You’ll also avoid the rushed panic my wife and I felt!)
One other tip: while most on-base centers base your fees on your income, those off base might not. There are, however, programs available to help. For example, KinderCare provides fee assistance for those who serve. The key to this type of program: don’t be proud. Daycare can be incredibly expensive—anywhere from a few dollars a day to nearly $200 per week, per child. Receiving help in covering these costs just makes good financial sense.
To help find a daycare provider near you, check out the ChildCare Aware website—it has some very helpful links and info, including detailed information for each branch. Military OneSource also provides some great resources.
Being able to stay home with your child as they grow up is certainly the best option. But that’s just not a reality for most of us—single parent households certainly can’t do so, and dual parent homes usually need dual incomes. So finding the right daycare, at the right price, can ensure your child grows up healthy and happy, while giving you peace of mind that they are being cared for and kept safe.