The Military Gets It; So Why Not PA?
How the Department of Defense overhauled child care; addressing problems with quality, access, and affordability
The military understands the value of high-quality child care. A generation ago, the Department of Defense overhauled and upgraded its child care system for military families. This investment served as a vital workforce support for military parents, and helped ensure young people had a quality environment where they could learn and grow. Today, these child care centers and certified family child care homes are important resources for the military, and provide an example of best practices that can be implemented in Pennsylvania and across the country.
The Military Child Care System (MCCS) is the largest employer-sponsored early care and education (ECE) program in the country.The military has embraced child care as a quality-of-life benefit for service members, designed to support mission readiness, morale, and retention. Across the country and around the world, 200,000 military children are growing and learning in these high-quality programs daily. The different military branches run the programs under requirements set by the Department of Defense. These high-quality programs focus on children’s cognitive, physical, social, and emotional development.
In Pennsylvania, 71 percent of children have all available parents in the labor force, making child care an essential support for working families. Unfortunately, problems in our civilian child care system involving quality, access, and affordability render the system less-than-optimal for children, families, and the commonwealth’s businesses. Pennsylvania’s policymakers should look to the military’s example on how to scale up the state’s child care system to better support working families. Substantial increases in federal child care funding will provide policymakers an immediate opportunity to strengthen the system. As the military demonstrated, a complete overhaul of the child care system is not necessary; improvements to, and additional investments in, the existing system will have lasting impacts for Pennsylvania’s children and families.