Guest Author - Marie Indyk
Finding quality childcare after every PCS move can be daunting. It takes time to establish trust with a provider and for children to acclimate to a new environment. The good news is that a wealth of childcare options are available for military families , from home providers to off base centers.
Child Development Centers (CDCs)
CDCs are daycare centers located on military bases. They accept children from 6 weeks to school age and offer full time, part time, hourly, preschool, and after school care. The centers are affordable and fill up quick, so it is a good idea to call and get on the inactive waiting list as soon as you have PCS orders.
Family Day Care Providers (On Base)
Family child care providers are on base day care homes authorized to offer more than ten hours of childcare per week. These providers must undergo special training, interviews, background checks and inspections to be licensed on base. Home daycares can be more flexible, providing evening and short notice care, and they also often accept care vouchers for volunteer work, PCS moves, and extended duty.
Most military spouses with children need a babysitter as much as you! Babysitting clubs are a group of spouses that get together and offer babysitting "swaps" for free. Swaps can be a great resource for date nights or that last minute doctor's appointment. A good resource for finding a babysitting club is through your on base neighbors, your unit's family readiness group (FRG), or by joining a playgroup.
Off Base Daycare Centers and Preschools
If you live off base or want your child to experience the local culture, then an off base center or preschool may be the answer. Military families stationed overseas can expose their children to a new language at an early age and integrate the entire family into a new way of life. Overseas U.S military bases are usually surrounded by nearby daycare options catering to military families. Many of the schools employ English speaking teachers (i.e. Montessori schools) who offer lessons to the children in their native language. Non-English speaking schools typically have a higher percentage of local children and will therefore completely immerse your child into the local language and culture. The on base childcare resource and referral office should be able to provide a list of off base providers, but will not recommend one over the other.
Ultimately, other military families will be the best source for finding a reputable, trusted provider. Scour the internet for reviews and ask other parents for recommendations. Don't be afraid to interview a potential caregiver and visit several centers before deciding on the right one for your child.