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Waltz, Haaland Urge Dept. of Defense to Close Child Care Gaps for Military Families

DAYTONA BEACH, FLA. –  On Thursday, U.S. Reps. Michael Waltz (R-Fla.) and Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) led a bipartisan letter with 33 members of Congress to U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Mark Esper, urging the DoD to close child care gaps for military families.

The U.S. military has nearly 1.6 million active duty family members, with more than half of all active duty members having a spouse and/or dependents. COVID-19 has been especially impactful on military families, with approximately 1.2 million children under the age of 13 in military families requiring child care.

Although the DoD has an extensive network of Child Development Centers providing low cost, subsidized options for military families, the waitlists are long – and nearly 18,000 military children remain on them nationwide. This number does not account for the surge of school-age children requiring child care this fall.

The letter specifically calls on DoD to work with community leaders, veteran service organizations and state and local governments to develop and implement creative solutions and encourages creative scheduling and maximizing teleworking.

“Many of these families have reached out to us asking for support in navigating this complex problem. Single military parents and dual military couples with children face added challenges given their essential roles at work and no additional help at home. Military-civilian couples fear the civilian spouse may be forced to quit their job to take care of their children, jeopardizing the financial stability of those families,” the lawmakers wrote. “We urge you to work with community leaders, veteran service organizations and state and local governments to develop and implement creative solutions.”

The child care dilemma impacts military member retention rates and America’s national security. Research has shown insufficient childcare options for military families not only impacts readiness and retention decisions but also contributes to military members missing duty and leaving their service.

The letter has already gathered widespread support from military service groups and organizations including the Military Officers Association of America, National Military Family Association, Partners In PROMISE, Military Family Advisory Network, Blue Star Families, Service Women’s Action Network, Association of the United States Navy, United States Army Warrant Officers, TREA: The Enlisted Association and the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. 

Waltz has been a strong advocate for military families during his time in Congress – and his experience as a former Green Beret Lt. Colonel and a current National Guard Colonel have shaped his beliefs to promote inclusion for men and women in the military as well as their families. Waltz has advocated for Gold Star Families, promoted improved housing standards for military members and their families and has also worked on legislation improving access to affordable uniforms for pregnant service women.  

Full text of the letter is available here.

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