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Journal Issue: Caring for Infants and Toddlers Volume 11 Number 1 Spring/Summer 2001

Reports from the Field: The Military Child Care Connection
M.-A. Lucas

Introduction

Every day the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) uses 297,451 diapers; prepares 594,902 servings of "liquid baby rations"; issues purchase orders for cribs, strollers, and rocking chairs; and sings thousands of lullaby "cadences."1 It was not always that way. The profile of the U.S. Armed Forces has changed from that of single members living in barracks, to one of a diverse volunteer workforce with growing numbers of female service members, working spouses, and sole and dual military parents.2 Child care has become a workforce issue vital to U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine families and to the military mission.

The military child care program is truly a Cinderella story. At one time, it was known as the "ghetto of American child care" with unsafe and unsuitable facilities, weak standards that were sporadically enforced, staff who were poorly trained and compensated with turnover rates at some centers as high as 300%, and a general lack of oversight and attention from military officials.3 In the past dozen years, however, military child care has achieved a remarkable turnaround. Today it is acclaimed as a model for the nation,4–6 and described as the "gold standard for child care."7 Fully 50% of the children in military child care programs are under age three, and this article describes the military's approach to providing flexible, high-quality, affordable infant and toddler child care.