The Defense Department has rolled out MilitaryChildCare.com, a new website designed to bring all military child care help to a central online location. No more wondering how in the world to find help or where in the you-know-where to start. Everything in one easy place.
If you're thinking "of course 'eventually,'" that's what I said, too. Because, well, DoD is just like that. Currently it's available for a variety of Navy bases worldwide, Nellis Air Force Base and a few Marine Corps locations. Army is pretty much out in the cold for the time being (that is set to change later this month as the site rolls out for some Army folks in Hawaii). They expect everyone to be included by September, 2016.
But you should still be excited even if you don't live in those places (and you look on the site to see what those places are). So let's go back to the happy part of this -- because there is a happy part.
I don't want to alarm anyone. But this new childcare portal seems to be useful, user friendly, clear, uncomplicated and, for the most part, void of glitches. That's right, I said it -- a DoD site that is user friendly. I know, I was shocked, too. I hesitated to even type the words. But there they are.
Why do I think it's so awesome?
Because it takes something that is the exact opposite of user-friendly -- military sponsored child care -- and makes it a little easier to figure out.
You're probably familiar with how the process currently works. Here in Fort Campbell, Ky. Army land it's like this: you need part or full time daycare. You call the Parent Central Services office (or show-up in person) to be placed on the waiting list. They give you a print out of names, addresses and phone numbers for off-base centers and in-home providers who may or may not take children the age of your child and who may or may not have room for your kid. The only way to find out is by calling each of them, one by one, and asking -- or leaving a message and waiting for a call back.
I've heard that some bases have their own online systems that at least put some of this information in a place that does not require showing up, in person to pick-up a list. Others may email you the information.
If you find a person you want to place your child with, you go to them and fill out the paperwork. Then you must hand carry it back to central services for the signature of the director.
What an excellent use of time, huh?
This new childcare portal aims to cut out some of the confusion and time suck included in the process by automating several steps. And it is glorious.
So how does MilitaryChildCare.com work?First, to really use it you have to have a log-in. You can view available providers as well as their location and phone number without doing so, but you won't be able to see details on care availability or send the provider an application. You have to create a log-in with another ridiculously secure password or use a CAC.
When you create a log-in (you must use your sponsor's information -- but, hallelujah, you can use your own non-.mil email address) you also enter your children's names, ages and any special needs information. Doing so lets you search for a provider that meets your child's specific needs and age.
It's as simple as searching your area and viewing the results.Assuming your area of the world (and yes, this is a worldwide system!) is currently a part of the program, you simply search your region for providers that match your needs. I chose to search San Diego (because it's included in the current roll-out and it sounds warm). I came up with 72 potential care providers -- both day care centers on and off base and in-home care.
(Note: for those concerned about the contact information displayed in the below screen shots -- all of this information is publicly available on MilitaryChildCare.com without any kind of log-in requirement. We are not displaying any information not already publicized).
Each result includes the hours of operation, contact information for the provider and when they expect to have availability. No more calling 20 people on a list only to be told none of them are accepting kids until next summer. Now you just search and read. Easy.
I could also move over to a map view to get a better handle on where in the area these providers are located.
When you click on a provider you can read a personalized statement from them about their center (or home).
And you can apply for placement via the website. This, of course, is the only part I didn't test - because I don't live in San Diego (sadly) and it sounds like this won't be available for Fort Campbell any time soon.
If you do live in one of the areas that currently has this system, however, I hope you will test it and let us know how it goes.
Feature photo courtesy U.S. Army.