Childcare Critical to Military Families

By William French
Apr 12, 2017 1:30 PM ET

“If you close tomorrow because of the snow, I won’t be able to go to work.”

“I haven’t had a single break since my husband deployed.”

“I missed another appointment because I didn’t have anyone to watch the kids.”

At the Armed Services YMCA we have heard these and many other examples of why childcare is so important. It can especially make a huge difference in the lives of our young military families. We offer many programs designed to help meet the challenges of military life, but few are as needed as childcare.

According to the Blue Star Families 2016 annual Military Family Lifestyle Survey, childcare continues to be a top need. The report says:

“Additional support for flexible and affordable childcare remains a top request, with 66 percent of military families indicating they are not always able to find the childcare they need. When asked, ‘What could DoD [the Department of Defense] do to make it easier for you to ensure your family is healthy and happy during your loved one’s military service,’ the top theme among qualitative responses was ‘offer accessible and affordable childcare.’”

The ability to go to work, to run errands, or to attend an appointment should be easy. However, for many military families, a deploying spouse leaves behind a single parent, who is already dealing with financial challenges faced by many junior enlisted members.

A recent Rand Corporation brief found that “If parents are forced to make do with inadequate childcare arrangements or cannot find childcare, they may be distracted from duty or in some instances may even fail to report for duty in order to care for their children.”  Unfortunately, we see this all too often.

One particular type of childcare making a difference is our Teddy’s Child Watch program. Teddy’s Child Watch provides very low cost or free childcare for parents attending medical appointments either for themselves or for a sick child. Leaving healthy children outside of the clinical areas reduces exposure to sick patients, lessens the chance of them getting sick, and allows parents to focus on the information provided by the doctor.

Because of funding from companies like Sodexo and Healthnet, Teddy’s Child Watch is available for parents so they can improve their health and that of their family.

Maddie Quick, a military spouse who was expecting her second child, recently arrived at Fort Wainwright, Alaska. She told me that she was worried that she would not have anyone to watch her daughter during her appointments. She was relieved when the Armed Services YMCA solved the problem for her. At an orientation meeting held on post, she heard about Teddy’s Child Watch and signed her daughter up the next week. Now she no longer has to worry about being able to attend her appointments due to a lack of childcare. Maddie is the exact reason we have the program. Now she is a great advocate and is very thankful for the Teddy’s Child Watch program at Fort Wainwright.

But the benefits don’t stop there. The program helps hospitals run more efficiently.

I received a call from a hospital commanding officer thanking us for the program. He said that since Teddy’s Child Watch started, the no-show rates for medical appointments had dropped by 30 percent.

When childcare is readily available, parents are more likely to show up for their medical appointments, increasing their health and ability to cope with the stresses of military life. That translates into a healthier family and a healthier military.

Evidence from surveys, studies, and anecdotes all supports the notion that there is a direct correlation between the availability of affordable, flexible childcare and quality of life for military families—and ultimately military readiness. I would encourage installations, communities, the private sector, and organizations such as ASYMCA to continue to work together to consider how their resources and best practices can be more effectively integrated to address this important issue, as we’ve done with  programs like Teddy’s Child Watch.


Teddy’s Child Watch is available at:

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, AK

Bassett Army Community Hospital on Fort Wainwright, AK

Tripler Army Medical Center, HI

Schofield Barracks Health Clinic, HI

David Grant Medical Center –Travis AFB, CA;

Joint Base Charleston Hospital, SC;

Blanchfield Community Hospital, Fort Campbell, KY;

Naval Hospital, Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, CA