Senators Tom Cotton (R-AR) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) recently introduced legislation that would help provide more child care support and flexibility to military families. The "Availability of Child Care for Every Servicemember and Spouse (ACCESS) Act of 2017" would apply to child care facilities on military bases and installations, as well as community providers. Today, nearly two-thirds of military families lack access to quality child care.
The ACCESS Act proposes to help military families by:
- Requiring better hours of operation of Child Development Centers managed by the military - Specifically, it would require each military branch to establish the hours of operation at all centers that meet the need of the families. Needs to be factored into the requirements include mission requirements, unpredictable work schedules, and spousal employment and education.
- Adding child care coordinators to military installations - Currently, military families do not have designated staff on each installation that are tasked with monitoring the availability and quality of child care. The ACCESS Act would require a child care coordinator at every military installation. The coordinator, who could be full-time or part-time, would serve as the advocate for military families seeking child care for both on- and off-installation services. The coordinator would also be tasked with coordinating with the installation commander and community child care providers.
- Creating a pilot program that includes military installation base commanders and the private, community-based child care providers - Child care wait lists tend to exceed 12 months, which especially impacts military families who tend to move frequently. This legislation would establish a pilot program where installation commanders and child care coordinators would work with community-based providers on setting aside slots for military families.
The ACCESS Act has been referred to the Senate Armed Services Committee for further consideration.