The Army has launched a program in two locations to help reserve members find child care services and help ease the burden of searching for qualified, licensed providers.
Service officials said Thursday that Army Reserve members in West Liberty, Iowa, and Clay County, Missouri, would now have access to WeeCare Company, a child care matching service that connects families with vetted providers.
"The Army recognizes the impact that child care has on the lives of our soldiers and their families," Army Deputy Chief of Staff for Installations Lt. Gen. Kevin Vereen said in a press release. "Through increased initiatives to identify and secure accessible and affordable child care options, we enable our military parents to fulfill their responsibilities without sacrificing the well-being of their children."
A 2021 survey by the Military Family Advisory Network of 8,638 active-duty, reserve and National Guard members or their spouses, found that almost half said they needed child care, and 78% reported having trouble finding child care.
To assist service members with such a stressful task, the Defense Department has embraced several initiatives in the past several years, such as building new child development centers and offering hiring incentives and improved wages to attract providers to base centers.
In November, it will launch a program that allows active-duty personnel and reserve and National Guard members on federal orders to sign up for flexible spending accounts to help pay for child care, preschool, day camps and adult care.
The new Army program is designed to help its reserve soldiers find providers during drill weekends and training. An Army spokeswoman said the two locations were chosen as a result of consultations between Army leadership and Army Child and Youth Services program leaders working within the parameters of the intergovernmental agreements.
“Communities and regional reserve commands enthusiastically volunteered to participate in this pilot,” said Army spokeswoman Heather Hagan in an email to Military.com.
The pilot is expected to run for a year with an option to extend up to 9 years, Hagan added.
WeeCare Company says it connects families to the largest child care network in the U.S. through a mobile app. The company uses an advanced matching algorithm that provides real-time child care availability. The app also allows service members to find, tour and enroll in local child care facilities and programs.
The pilot was made possible through an intergovernmental support agreement with West Liberty and Clay County, which, in turn, selected WeeCare to help provide child care to Army Reserve members in their communities. The agreements are deals the military negotiates with state and local governments to improve support for service members living in those regions or areas.
The DoD and the military services allotted roughly $1.2 billion to provide child care services in fiscal 2020 for more than 212,000 dependent children, including 116,538 at on-base child development centers.
In a statement, Lt. Gen. Jody Daniels, commanding general of U.S. Army Reserve Command, said that shaping the Army Reserve requires support from the military and the community.
"We are grateful to the organizations participating in this unprecedented partnership for providing trusted, accessible, weekend child care to our soldiers and their families," Daniels said.
-- Patricia Kime can be reached at Patricia.Kime@Military.com. Follow her on Twitter and Threads @patriciakime.