ARLINGTON, Va. — For the first time, a new Defense Department initiative gives all mobilized or deployed military parents access to government-subsidized, high-quality child care — including members of the reserve components, who until now have been excluded from DOD’s on-base programs.

Operation Military Child Care is funded by the Defense Department, and administered by the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, or NACCRRA, a Washington-based network of more than 850 child-care resource and referral centers nationwide.

Participants will receive referrals to licensed community child care providers and get discounts of up to 25 percent.

The exact amount of the subsidy will be based on family income, as well as the average cost of child care in that area [see box].

Operation Military Child Care, which kicked off Thursday, is also available to the families of deployed active-duty members who are wait-listed for child care at their home base.

“But the goal is to reach out to people especially if they’re not on a base, such as reservists and the National Guard,” said NACCRRA spokeswoman Katherine Chamberlain.

Reserve component members, in particular, often have problems finding and paying for child care during deployments, Chamberlain said in a Monday telephone interview.

Reserve family incomes may nose-dive when the spouse left at home requires more child care than usual, and sometimes a working spouse may even be forced to give up her job because child care is so expensive, “especially in big cities,” Chamberlain said.

“In New York [City, if a spouse] is making $30,000 per year, child care can be up to 50 percent of that salary,” Chamberlain said.

“By setting up quality child care at a discounted rate,” Operation Military Child Care can “significantly reduce” such burdens, she said.

To ensure the same standards as providers in DOD’s on-post Child Development Centers, the program will subsidize only licensed, legally operating community-based child-care programs and providers, Chamberlain said.

Families can request a preferred state-accredited and licensed child-care provider or program, or NACCRRA will provide a list of referrals. Military families who live near installations may also be referred to an on-post child-care program, if there is space available.

Operation Military Child Care officials are hoping to attract at least 6,000 participants, Chamberlain said.

Getting help

Who is eligible? Families and child guardians of reserve component servicemembers who are mobilized or deployed in support of the global war on terror, and geographically dispersed active-duty servicemembers or deployed servicemembers who are unable to access child care on their military installation.

How long will my family be eligible to participate in the program? As long as you, as parent or guardian, are mobilized or deployed.

What do I need to provide to establish eligibility for the program? Copies of orders, birth certificates, and the social security number of your children; the name and contact information for any preferred, licensed child care program or provider; proof of income (pay stub or tax return); and a signed copy of the application.

How long does the application process take? NACCRRA will process the application in one to five business days after receipt.

Where can I go for more information or an application? Visit the NACCRRA Web site or call the Child Care Aware hot line (800) 424-2246; or the Army One Source (800) 464-8107. For Army One Source outside the United States, dial the access code to reach a U.S. number, then (800) 464-81077. The number for hearing-impaired callers is (800) 364-9188. In Spanish, (888) 732-9020.

Source: National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies

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