This month, Army Emergency Relief began providing up to $1,500 to help soldiers and their families with initial child care costs that pop up after a move.
Families frequently face delays in placing their children in child care after moving, which often results in paying more than necessary in those first few months.
The AER Child Care Assistance Program seeks to help families in that situation. With a no-interest loan, grant or combination of both, eligible families can receive up to $500 per month for three consecutive months. The program's goal is to offset the costs related to finding child care facilities off base, which is usually more expensive.
Installation child care through Child & Youth Services is income-based, ranging from $304 to $694 per month per child during the 2019-2020 school year. Similar services off base can be more expensive, depending on the area. Wait times vary but can be more than 12 months.
Families facing a permanent change-of-station move can put their children on a wait-list prior to arriving at their new base, but that doesn't guarantee a spot. When this occurs, they are forced to use child care options off base or sometimes in uncertified home day care operations, which can add cost and risk.
For example, child care fees in Maryland last year averaged $15,403 for an infant in a day care center and $25,887 for both an infant and a four-year-old. On an installation, that cost would be $6,984 and $12,920.40 for a Category 5 family, with a total family income of $63,885 to $81,310 for the 2019-2020 school year.
AER is the only emergency relief program to offer this option for child care costs.
The Air Force Aid Society pays for 20 hours of child care per child in certified Family Child Care homes for each PCS -- but that's the extent of the child care assistance offered.
The Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society's Quick Assist Loan offers up to $500 for sailors and Marines within minutes for urgent needs. "Although the QAL Program can be used to defray the cost of child care, often these expenses exceed that $500 limit, so our client would come to our local office, conduct a budget review with a caseworker, who would assess the need and render appropriate assistance," said retired Navy Rear Adm. Dawn Cutler, the society's vice president, chief development and communications officer. "We do pay for child care on a case-by-case basis, but the society doesn't have a unique child care assistance program like our sister aid organizations have."
For families who continue to use off-base child care options, there are subsidies available through Child Care Aware of America.
The 2018 Blue Star Families Survey shared that one of the top stressors for military families is child care.
"Finding new child care can be one of many adjustment challenges and is a commonly reported issue for both military spouse respondents and female service members," the survey report said. Additionally, "79% of female service members who relocated in the last year could not obtain reliable child care."
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