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Could you get bumped from base childcare

The answer is yes, starting this October

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By Ken Swarner & the Defense Department

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Beginning in October, some families using child care on Joint Base Lewis-McChord could get bumped to make room for military families with a higher priority.

During Tuesday’s weekly town hall on Facebook Live, Col. Skye Duncan, JBLM’s garrison commander referenced a new Defense Department policy change that went into effect this month. According to Duncan, those new rules won’t start here until the Fall.

As directed by Defense Secretary Dr. Mark T. Esper in a memo signed Feb. 21, 2020, the department will afford priority access to military families. Beginning June 1, the military services may begin to officially notify families who face being supplanted. Once a family is notified, they will then have 45 days to find alternative care.

According to the policy memo, the most noticeable changes occur when wait times for slots exceed 45 days. In those cases, first priority goes to 1A and 1B families (active duty combat related wounded warriors and single C&Y direct care employees and direct care employees with a working spouse). All other families with lower priority status than 1A or 1B could be removed from the CDC if a higher-priority family requests a spot when wait times exceed 45 days.

After 1A and 1B , the next priority goes to service members with a full or part-time working spouse or a spouse seeking employment, followed by service members with spouses enrolled full-time in a post-secondary school. Fifth priority goes to DoD civilian employees, followed by all other eligible families such as active duty personnelwith non-working spouses, DoD civilian employees with spouses seeking employment or enrolled in post-secondary education, and Gold Star spouses.

Exceptions to the priority system will be granted for unique mission-related requirements.

''The department's system of child care was established to assist service members as they face the unique challenges associated with the demands of military service,'' said Virginia (Vee) Penrod, acting assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs. ''Over time, child care access expanded to serve the total force, but we must not lose sight of the service member and mission requirements. We must ensure that our military members and families have the support needed in order to be mission ready.''

Duncan used the example Tuesday that a newly arriving dual military couple or single parent on active duty would be able to bump a DoD civilian family from base care.

Changes to the policy include clarifying situations where military families may supplant lower priority patrons when necessary. The age of the child and the waitlist at their respective center will determine if currently enrolled families will be impacted. These changes also clarify the definition of a working spouse, provide for ample notification in cases of discontinuation of child care, and provide authority to establish exceptions where mission requirements necessitate flexibility.     

''We acknowledge this policy change presents a challenge for some families. The department is committed to ensuring our military members have the care they need to be mission ready,'' said Kim Joiner, acting deputy secretary of defense for military community and family policy. ''Child care is an important component to a lethal and deployable force. Expanding access to quality child care remains a top priority for the department and the military services.''

The department's request for care system,, will continue to serve as the access point for all requests for care. Individual priority is verified at the time of enrollment and annually thereafter.

The Military Departments are developing operational guidance and will inform patrons when more information is available.

Base childcare has already been a challenge for military families during Covid 19. Currently, JBLM is welcoming back One Charlie families (dual military couples or single parent families who were in care previous to April. Child care is roughly at 50 percent capacity, roughly 800 of the 1600 families who used childcare facilities on base prior to the virus outbreak.

We still have a few more slots,” Duncan said as those who were mission essential and in care for the first time have been returning to other options off the base. Duncan said calls are going out to fill those limited slots over the next few weeks.

Those newly arriving, Duncan said, could have to wait for care until late Summer or early Fall.

Duncan said his office will hold town hall meetings to discuss the new priority system as October nears. is a secure DoD website providing a single gateway for families to find comprehensive information on military-operated or military-approved child care programs worldwide. With, military families create an account and maintain a household profile they can access at any time from any location. By streamlining the child care search and request process, makes it easier for military families to understand and assess their child care options and make more informed decisions about their child's care.

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