Thu. Jun 13th, 2024

America’s child care shortage is pushing military families to a breaking point

By 37ci3 May27,2024

Even after finding a solution, it can be changed quickly. Williams plans to spend her entire monthly salary on childcare so she can attend upcoming field training while her husband is on duty.

Mia Reisweber, who works remotely in higher education and whose husband is also in the Army, said she has been on waiting lists for child care constantly for the past eight years. When her first son was born, she spent nearly a year on the waiting list for the base’s childcare center, and had to fly with her mother to fill the gap so she and her husband could return to work. When she learned she was pregnant with her second child, she was placed on a waiting list for care at the Military Academy at West Point two years before her family anticipated moving there.

“The second I found out I was pregnant, and I mean the second, we were on a waiting list. It was a bigger priority for me than even a doctor’s appointment,” Reisweber said.

Reisweber said she’s seen different levels of support to address childcare needs and support working spouses.

“We have supportive senior leaders who get it and take the fight,” he said. “Then we have people who say, ‘Make your spouse stay home and look after the child.'”

The biggest obstacle to expanding the number of children the Army can care for has been a lack of manpower, said Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen, whose duties include overseeing the Army’s child care operations. About 23% of child care positions are vacant for the Army, which has about 4,500 children on waiting lists, though that’s an improvement from 2022, when about 37% of jobs were unfilled.

Fort Campbell in Kentucky.
Fort Campbell, Ky.Tamara Reynolds for NBC News

To help recruit babysitters, the Army offered about $2,000 in bonuses, raised wages to an average of $18 to $33 an hour, and began hiring. offer discounted child care for employees at their centers and access to cheaper food products sold at some of their base commissaries. The Army also recently began offering weekend child care in 20 states for Army Reserve and National Guard members.

“We see a difference, and what we do is make a difference when trying to get employees,” Vereen said.

One disadvantage of the military is the lengthy hiring process potential employees can face, she said, because the military requires babysitters to pass a background check and obtain permission to work on base. This can add a month or two to the hiring process, when employees can receive competing offers from other employers.

The Air Force also has about 3,700 children on waiting lists he begansuggest free tuition for one child and 25% discount for additional children at childcare centers. The Air Force has proposed spending $40 million to build new facilities and is working on other efforts to increase the number of locations and suppliers.

Members of Congress also need to address the child care needs of military families, including a Senate bill aims to help babysitters near military installations increase their staffing. A Bill in the House A military spouse will pay for child care while they look for work, which can help families who can’t afford child care because only one parent works, but can’t find a job because child care isn’t available.

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By 37ci3

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