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Military-Operated Child Care Programs

Program Types

Choosing child care may be one of the most important decisions you’ll make as a parent, and it can be hard to know where to start. Rest assured, the Department of Defense provides military families with a variety of quality, affordable child care options. DoD programs support a variety of child care needs, allowing parents to choose the right type of care for their child’s age and family schedule. While services may vary by location, the standards and quality of services are consistent and meet established regulations. Learn more about military child care programs below.

Program Types

  • Child Development Centers (CDC)

    CDCs provide child care services for infants, pretoddlers, toddlers, and preschoolers. They operate Monday through Friday during standard work hours, and depending on the location offer full-day, part-day, and hourly care.

  • Family Child Care (FCC)

    Family child care is provided by qualified child care professionals in their homes. Designed for infants through school agers, each FCC provider determines what care they offer, which may include full-day, part-day, school year, summer camp, 24/7, and extended care. Some FCC providers offer flexible operating hours, and are able to adjust their hours to accommodate requests from parents.

  • 24/7 Center

    24/7 Centers provide child care for infants through school age children in a home-like setting during both traditional and non-traditional hours on a regular basis. The program is designed to support watch standers or shift workers who work rotating or non-traditional schedules (i.e., evenings, overnights, and weekends). While other families may use a 24/7 Center if space is available, priority is given to sponsors who require 24/7 care.

  • School Age Care (SAC)

    School age care is facility-based care for children from the start of kindergarten through the end of the summer after seventh grade. This program type operates Monday through Friday during standard work hours. SAC programs provide both School Year Care and Summer Camp.

Care Types

Care types define the general characteristics of the care offered, including the schedule and age groups or grades served. There are six care types in MCC, including the following.

Full-Day Care: Full-day care provides child care for infants through preschool age children, six hours or more per day on a regular basis, for at least four days per week.

Part-Day Care: Part-day care provides child care for infants through preschool age children for fewer than six hours per day on a seasonal or regularly scheduled basis.

School Year Care: School year care provides care for children in kindergarten through grade 7 during the school year. Offerings include before and after school, seasonal camps, and school-out days.

Summer Camp: Summer camp provides care for children between school years during the summer.

Extended Care: Extended care provides child care for infants through school age on an irregular or occasional basis, during non-traditional hours (e.g., early mornings, evenings, or overnight). Extended care may be used with other types of care.

24/7 Care: 24/7 care provides child care for infants through school age during traditional and non-traditional hours on a regular basis. 24/7 care is designed to support watch standers or shift workers who work rotating or non-traditional schedules (i.e., evenings, overnights, and weekends) and is often used instead of other types of care. To qualify for this care type, families must submit their work schedule.

Hourly Care: Hourly care provides short-term child care on an intermittent basis. It is offered to eligible families on a first-come, first-served basis, and is not managed through MCC. To request hourly care from your preferred program, please contact the program directly.

Program Quality Standards

The DoD is committed to providing affordable, quality child and youth care in a safe, healthy, and nurturing environment. To do that, all DoD programs must meet strict quality standards.

  • Military-operated programs must be DoD certified and meet national accreditation requirements.
  • Family Child Care (FCC), offered by military spouses, is a quality alternative to center-based care. All providers are licensed and monitored regularly.

Quality Standards for Military-Operated Programs

All military-operated programs are DoD certified and accredited through a national accrediting organization. Families can view a program’s online inspection report when reviewing the program profile in MCC.

DoD Certification Process

Each military-operated program undergoes at least four unannounced inspections each year including:

  • An annual comprehensive fire and safety inspection
  • An annual comprehensive health and sanitation inspection
  • A multi-disciplinary team inspection that includes a parent representative
  • A military-service headquarters inspection

The military-service headquarters inspection covers the following programmatic areas and results in the DoD certification.

  • Resource management and administration
  • Personnel management
  • Background checks
  • Oversight and inspections
  • Facility
  • Fire and safety
  • Health and sanitation
  • Nutrition and food service
  • Child maltreatment and reporting
  • Supervision of children
  • Parent involvement, participation and communication
  • Learning activities and interactions with children

Select the relevant link below to review the inspection criteria programs must meet to receive the DoD Certificate to Operate.

National Accreditation

Achieving national accreditation demonstrates that a program meets rigorous national standards in the areas of education, health, and safety. This process includes self-study, continued program development, and assessment by an independent professional accrediting agency.

Accrediting agencies include:

Quality Standards for Family Child Care

All military certified family child care providers are certified professionals who are licensed, have obtained favorable background checks, and maintain a DoD Certificate to Operate. Each installation’s FCC program ensures all providers complete a comprehensive training program that promotes developmentally appropriate intellectual, social, emotional, and physical learning.

Minimum Requirements

At a minimum, a provider must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Have a high school diploma or GED

DoD Certification

Prior to opening an FCC home, providers are required to become DoD certified. The certification process ensures that:

  • Providers are held to the same high standard as other CYP professionals
  • Regulations limit the number of children in care
  • Children are actively engaged in developmentally appropriate activities
  • Activities focus on school-readiness as well as social and emotional development
  • The program operates in a safe, warm home environment

Screenings, Inspections, and Checks

DoD FCC programs follow some of the highest standards for care in the nation. Standards are typically more stringent than State standards, making it easier for applicants who are required to be both State and military certified. Required screenings, inspections, and checks include:

  • Criminal history background checks for the applicant and all residents over 18 years old
  • Health screening and proof of immunizations for the provider and residents
  • Home inspections for fire, safety, sanitation, and preventative medicine
  • Monthly visits by an FCC staff member to observe, mentor and provide support
  • Pet certificate if the provider has a pet to show that it has the appropriate vaccinations and is safe to be around children
  • Proof of liability insurance

Note: If a provider is located off base, the state may require additional licensing, registration, or inspections in addition to those required by the DoD. To check your state’s requirements, visit the National Database of Child Care Licensing.