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New child care program aims to help JBLM families

administrator, explains to David Fullmer, JBLM chief of staff, the current base statistics of child care June 24. Photo credit: Talysa Lloyd McCall

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JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD - A new child care partnership between Joint Base Lewis-McChord and the nonprofit Child Care Aware of America should help provide additional options for off-base child care facilities for service members and help the 800 children on the wait list for on-base care.

"The reality of the situation is that we depend on our service members to be ready, and without access to child care, we have a less ready military," said David Fullmer, JBLM chief of staff.

Even though JBLM has Child Development Centers and home-based family child care facilities on base, there is still a shortage of child care providers on base to meet the demands. That's why JBLM aligned with Child Care Aware of America to join its new expansion program in Washington called the "Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood Plus Program." Washington, which joined this year, is one of four states to utilize the program - Virginia and Maryland joined in 2019; Nevada in 2021. The MCCYN Plus programs allow more Washington day cares off base to be rated as high-quality child care to receive subsidies for Department of Defense affiliated families.

This partnership allows for off-base child care facilities to charge military families a similar reduced fee as on-base rates while being reimbursed by the Department of Defense to cover the difference. It will also provide an incentive for increasing the number of off-base care facilities to help with start-up costs if they care for military families.

JBLM was part of a Zoom conference call June 24 with the Pierce County Child Care Voice Team to talk about the "Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood Plus Program."

"Most of our military families have to seek child care off base," said Maria Tobin, South Sound Military and Communities Partnership program coordinator. "That can be very expensive. This program will not only help them (the service members), but our providers as well."

Highlighting some of the extreme challenges JBLM service members face in seeking child care, Fullmer spoke about a dual, active-duty family with a newborn baby. After maternity leave, both service members had to return to duty, but there was no child care available for them on or off base. The baby lived with a family member while the service members returned to duty.

It's not just active-duty military families who are impacted by the child care crisis in the area. National guardsmen and reservists are also feeling the crunch.

"We have the largest amount of national guard members here in the area," said Robbin Seeberger, Washington National Guard, lead child and youth service coordinator. "Since our drills revolve around the weekend and activation is unpredictable, it is very difficult for our members to find adequate, last-minute care in the community."

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