Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Tom Cotton (R-AR), members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today introduced new bipartisan legislation that would give military families with children better support and more flexibility when they use child care facilities on military installations or seek child care from community providers.
“Our military families sacrifice an enormous amount for our country, but their unique needs are not being met by our military’s current approach to child care,” said Senator Gillibrand, the Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee. “This bipartisan bill would help boost our military’s readiness and retention by making sure our military families have access to child care that actually meets their needs. I am proud to introduce this legislation with Senator Cotton, and I will continue to do everything I can as ranking member of the Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee to make sure our extraordinary military families always have the resources and support they need and deserve.”
“After all the sacrifices military families make, it’s unacceptable that so many of them can’t find the child care they need. These are men and women who only want to give even more of their time in service to our country, and we should go to much greater lengths to address their needs. Fixing this problem goes to the heart of military readiness,” said Senator Cotton. “This legislation enjoys broad support within the military community, and I’m glad we’ve been able to work across the aisle to help these families get the support they deserve.”
“Concerns about child care is the number one issue facing our military families who are looking to our government to address their daily worries. At Blue Star Families we have worked to raise the issue with the Bipartisan Policy Center, sounding the alarm about its impact on eliminating the possibility of second incomes, undermining readiness and reducing retention. We are so appreciative of Senators Gillibrand and Cotton’s leadership on this vital legislation,” said Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO of Blue Star Families.
“Finding high quality, affordable child care is a challenge for many working families. For military families, the challenge is particularly acute, as they must cope with frequent moves, long waiting lists at installation child care centers, demanding schedules and the prolonged absence of one or both parents. Ensuring that military families’ child care needs are met is essential both to military readiness and to military families’ financial well-being. We applaud the innovative approach to solving this issue reflected in the ACCESS Act. This legislation is an important first step in making sure that military families have access to high quality, affordable child care that meets their needs,” said Joyce Wessel Raezer, Executive Director of the National Military Family Association.
The bipartisan ACCESS Act would support military families with young children in the following ways:
Require improved hours of operation of military-run Child Development Centers
Currently, military-run Child Development Centers often have opening hours that make it difficult for military personnel and their spouses to both pursue their own careers or education.
The bipartisan ACCESS Act would require the secretary of each military service department to set hours of operation at all military-run Child Development Centers that actually meet the needs of military families. These include mission requirements, the unpredictability of work schedules, and spousal employment and education.
Add child care coordinators to military installations
Currently, military families rely on a combination of child care sources, including military-run facilities on installations and community providers off-base. Military families do not have a designated person on each installation monitoring the overall availability and quality of this of child care.
The bipartisan ACCESS Act would require the secretary of each military department to provide for a child care coordinator at every military installation, either on a full-time or part-time basis. The child care coordinator would serve as an advocate for military families who are seeking child care, whether on-installation or off-installation. The child care coordinator would work with the installation commander, military families, and community child care providers.
Create a pilot program for collaboration between installation commanders and private child care providers in communities surrounding military installations
Child care facilities often have waitlists that are 12-18 months long. This particularly hurts military families, who can move around to different parts of the country frequently and with little advanced notice, and therefore typically are not able to adequately prepare for child care support after they move.
The bipartisan ACCESS Act would require each branch of the military to execute a pilot program in which installation commanders or their designees would work with off-installation private child care providers to set aside a portion of their child care slots for military families.