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Imagine If Your Daycare Was Forced to Close

Photograph by Twenty20

Nothing throws a wrench into a parent’s life like finding out they may no longer have child care services available. The scramble to find a new provider is often overwhelming, as many states have what are effectively considered “daycare deserts, where quality, affordable child care simply doesn’t exist. Add combat training in a military environment, and it’s easy to see how an impediment to routine child care can be a difficult roadblock to overcome.

Imagine serving in the armed forces as a single parent and being told by your child’s on-base daycare provider that in a few days, they would no longer be allowed to watch your child, all thanks to the president. Sadly, for Army families in Germany and Kentucky, that actually happened.

President Trump signed a 90-day executive order on Jan. 23 that effectively froze federal hiring across the board. According to Trump, the order would “clean up the corruption and special interest collusion in Washington, D.C.” Many critics of the freeze argued that banning federal agencies from hiring necessary employees would disrupt programs and services that benefit the public good. For service members at Fort Knox, Kentucky or at the U.S. Army Garrison Wiesbaden in Germany, the disruption was all too real.

In the president’s order, a hiring exemption was made for the military and extended to any federal jobs required for national or public safety, but implementing the exemptions have created nothing short of widespread confusion. For military families, services provided on base by Child Development Centers (known to military families as CDCs), including full-time and hourly drop-in care, are crucial to helping a family remain successful.

As many military families have heard, “combat-readiness is like a three-legged stool.” Each leg of the stool represents an element of being prepared to serve. One leg stands for “mission readiness,” another for “training readiness” and the third, “family readiness.” Remove any leg from the stool, and it falls. For a service member to be prepared to defend our country, they need their family to be taken care of.

Reports that CDCs have issued letters of closure based on the hiring freeze have gone viral across numerous social media platforms. Even military family members from various branches of service around the world are posting that their base CDC has cut services for the same reason.

It’s clear that whether or not the military is required to implement the federal hiring freeze, child care centers on bases across the country and even abroad have been impacted by the order.

According to military spouse Tabitha Moser, a neighbor shared in their on-base community Facebook page that “the CDC has stopped providing hourly drop-in care until the freeze is over. They're only registering full-time care.” While Moser has not been able to confirm this, it shows that confusion over the policy does exist.

Another military spouse who currently works on an Army base and did not want us to use her name, shared that the freeze—as far as she understands it—has prevented military spouses from getting jobs at CDCs, which are often overwhelmingly staffed by family members stationed nearby. She also fears that military families coming to the base on new orders may have issues with access to daycare services. It can be difficult for military spouses to speak out openly about issues their families face due to fear of retaliation or reprimands of their service member.

In Hawaii, aboard the Marine Corps Base in Kaneohe, there are postings for new hires at the base's two CDCs. Unfortunately, the CDC confirmed over the phone that they couldn’t actually hire anyone until the hiring freeze was lifted, although they were working on getting a waiver so that they could fill the positions sooner.

It’s clear that whether or not the military is required to implement the federal hiring freeze, child care centers on bases across the country and even abroad have been impacted by the order.

The good news is that a solution already exists. A guideline from the Deputy Secretary of Defense published Feb. 1 states that “positions providing child care to the children of military personnel” were exempt under the hiring freeze, although it does not eliminate the requirement for the agency to submit an exemption request. This means the move by the Fort Knox and Wiesbaden CDCs to close their doors and stop services for their military families was preemptive, unnecessary and could have been avoided by having a better understanding of the guidelines.

As of Feb. 22, The Military Times reported a statement issued by the Army that should come as a huge relief to military families stationed at Fort Knox and Wiesbaden: “Army child care providers are exempt from the hiring freeze and child care will continue without interruption.” What this means for other base child care centers is still unclear.

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