Army standardizes child care fees; change in cost begins Oct. 1

Beginning Oct. 1, most Army families will see an increase in their child care fees, while others will see a reduction or no change in fees for school year 2010/2011, as a result of a new Department of Defense policy.

According to Maj. Gen. Reuben Jones, commander of the Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, the Army will ensure outstanding child and youth programs.

“Army families will continue to have access to some of the best child and youth programs found anywhere in the world,” Jones said.

By law, child care fees are based on total family income (excluding certain special pay and allowances), not rank or civilian grade. In 2008, the Defense Department conducted an in-depth study of the child development program fee policy. As a result, they determined current fee ranges were no longer in sync with total family income for a majority of the users, and the fees have not kept pace with the increasing costs of providing care.

“While the cost of providing child care has risen each of the past six years, the value of the programs has also increased for Soldiers, their children and the Army,” said Peggy Hinson, Child, Youth and School Services director at FMWRC.

“Most Army programs are nationally accredited, and most importantly, Soldiers can concentrate on their mission, knowing their children are safe and well cared for,” she said.

The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, the country’s leading voice for child care, issues a biennial report on the quality of nationwide child care, including the Defense Department’s child care system. The 2007 study found that the Defense Department child care system “stands alone as a model for states.” In that report, military child care ranked first among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, and was the only entity to score in the top 10 for both standards and oversight criteria.

A 2009 update confirmed that Defense Department child care continues to score more than 60 percent above the national average.

Since 2004, child care fees at most Army garrisons have remained static in an attempt to ease the burden of persistent conflict and multiple deployments. In an effort to minimize the financial impact of fee increases, the Army received approval from the Defense Department to begin a phased-in implementation of this new policy. Individual installations have plans to reach fixed dollar amounts for each fee category within the next three years.

Currently, there are six fee categories, including a minimum fixed-rate and five income-based categories, each with a range of fees determined by the garrison.

The school year 2010/2011 child care fee policy will add three additional categories to more accurately accommodate higher incomes.

Under existing policy, families earning $70,001 pay the same fees as those making more than $100,000. The new categories will raise fees incrementally to cover families earning $125,001 or more annually.

Those earning $85,000 and below will see smaller increases. Furthermore, some lower-income families will pay reduced fees under the new policy. As always, families with more than one child will receive multiple child reductions, regardless of total family income. This will become an Army-wide standard 15 percent discount for second and subsequent children.

Commanders may authorize additional fee reductions for families with temporary, documented financial hardships. Army Family Covenant fee reductions are in effect while military parents are deployed.

In addition to Child Development Center fees, the Army’s 2010/2011 fee policy covers all CYS Services programs, school-age and hourly care, Schools of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills Unlimited programs and youth sports.