A plan to synchronize the U.S. military's childcare system and waitlists into one online portal will be completed by the end of 2016, despite a setback to bringing the Army's childcare systems on board, officials said.
"Many people said it would be impossible to do, to synchronize all five of the military services and get us all on the same sheet of music in terms of waiting lists and access to care," said Cherri Verschraegen, chief of child, youth and school Services at the Army's Installation Management Command. "It's kind of a mammoth undertaking."
MilitaryChildCare.com lets users search for Defense Department childcare help -- both from military-run childcare centers and at-home providers -- in an easy-to-navigate web portal. Users can also see provider availability and register on childcare waitlists through the site.
At bases not currently in the new system, waitlist registration must often be conducted in person at the childcare office. And parents looking for in-home providers are unable to see up-to-date information about care openings without calling each provider.
"Instead of having to go to three or four different services in person and get on their individual waiting list, I can do all of that sitting at my kitchen table in my pajamas," Verschraegen said. "It's really, really easier for the families."
The portal was originally slated to go live through a geographic rollout at installations regardless of service by next September. Officials now expect the process to be completed instead by the end of December 2016 because of an "accreditation issue" involving the Army systems.
As of Oct. 31, a total of 70 bases were live in the system. Of those, 11 were Air Force, 11 were Marine Corps, 42 were Navy and six were Army. Yet the only Army bases in the system were included as a part of a pilot program conducted in Hawaii late last year. The Navy is the lead service on the project.
The Army's delay in adding installations was caused by a security accreditation issue between the new and old systems that was discovered during the initial program pilot process, Verschraegen said. After identifying the issue, the service plans to roll out the system at their bases starting in January.
Between April and June, an additional 31 bases across the U.S. including Fort Benning, Georgia, and Fort Carson, Colorado, will come online, followed by the bases in Europe between July and September, they said.
The last phase, between September and December, will roll out the system at bases in the western U.S. and in the Pacific, including Fort Wainwright, Alaska, and the Army bases in Korea.
--Amy Bushatz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.