Advancing High-Quality Child Care: a Navy Admiral’s Priority Within the Military, and Beyond
Throughout her U.S. Navy career, Vice Admiral Nancy Brown pioneered efforts to improve child care options for families — a goal she still pursues, today
When Vice Admiral (Ret.) Nancy E. Brown became the commanding officer of a small naval base in Maine in 1993, she knew she had to find a way to provide better child care options for the sailors under her command. While the base had a facility for children 5 years of age and older, operated within the Military Child Care System (MCCS) and overseen by Admiral Brown, its hours were not ideal for sailors. Rotating and overnight shifts meant that the parents living on the base needed more than the standard daytime coverage for their children. Sailors also needed high-quality care for their younger kids, under age 5. To better meet these needs of both the parents and young children, Admiral Brown created a certification process for on-base, in-home child care providers.
To me, high-quality care is ensuring that the individual needs of students are met, and that we don’t look at it as one size fits all. Children need to be nurtured for them to want to learn and grow, so they can learn how to dream and reach for goals.
Vice Admiral (Ret.) Nancy Brown, U.S. Navy
The new in-home care providers and the facility for older children shared a goal of serving as more than just a watchful eye – both were intended to offer high-quality care and learning opportunities. Admiral Brown saw to it that the children’s days were filled with instructional activities based on their ages, meeting the MCCS requirements. Equipment had to meet high standards and compliance inspections were regularly conducted. While the U. S. Navy provided guidance and some materials, Admiral Brown was determined to not only sustain the program, but to help it excel. To achieve this, she implemented additional trainings and continuing education opportunities for the providers. The Admiral understood and responded to the need for greater support of the staff tasked with providing high-quality care to our nation’s youth in order to help them, and their families, succeed.
Like the hurdles experienced in child care programs throughout Illinois, where she now lives, one of the biggest recurring issues for Admiral Brown involved funding. She was adamant that the burden of paying for all of the required equipment should not fall solely on the child care provider and worked to provide as many resources as possible. This was especially challenging as the need for equipment to meet standards was constantly evolving. Despite the difficulties, Admiral Brown recognized that meeting ever-changing requirements resulted in the best programs possible for children, led by caregivers who were well-trained.
Having well-prepared providers is one of the benefits of the Military Child Care System that the admiral believes should be implemented in other child care programs. In the MCCS, this is achieved through free certification and continuing education for the providers, and further supported with competitive compensation. Other features that Admiral Brown believes would benefit all high-quality child care programs include off-hours availability to meet the needs of parents with atypical work schedules and providing enriching environments with engaging activities for the children. As noted in a recent Illinois report, these tools used by the Military Child Care System could help all children.
High-quality care starts building the sailor of tomorrow. We need highly trained individuals for the increasingly technical jobs that we expect our sailors to be proficient in. [High-quality care] is the building block and foundation for our leaders of tomorrow.
Vice Admiral (Ret.) Brown
In retirement, Admiral Brown has continued her work of pursuing high-quality care and education opportunities for our nation’s youth as an invaluable member of Mission: Readiness, a nonprofit group of retired military leaders. This work is especially significant as child care and preK can help address the educational deficits, behavioral problems, and health issues, like obesity, that contribute to an alarming statistic: 70% of Illinois youth are ineligible to pursue military service, even if they desire. The efforts of Admiral Brown and her fellow Mission: Readiness members truly, positively impact countless children, their families, and the strength of our national security.