By Lynsie Dickerson
USAREC Public Affairs
Feb. 12, 2016
Child care changes and options were a key point of discussion for Recruiting Command spouses Feb. 10 during the Annual Leaders Training Conference on Fort Knox, Kentucky.
The Army Fee Assistance Program will begin transitioning from General Services Administration as its third-party administrator to Child Care Aware of America, with February 22 set as the target "go live" date, according to Cherri Verschraegen, Chief of Army Child and Youth Programs at Installation Management Command headquarters.
"Right now, we have 12,000 children receiving child care fee assistance through community-based programs with (General Services Administration)," she said.
Fee assistance is based on total family income and helps make off-post child care more affordable for families, she said.
"Fee assistance for programs outside the gate make sure that families are paying only what they would pay on post," Verschraegen said. "So if the fee on the local economy is $1,000 and the care on post is... $267, the difference is what the Army pays directly to the provider so that the family only has to pay $267."
This transition will be done in phases, with each state assigned to one of seven phases. Each phase will last approximately one month.
Prior to a state's transition date, GSA will continue managing accounts for that state.
"Also on the go live date on 22 February, (Child Care Aware) will begin to take all new applications, so any family that may be either relocating and they need care, having another baby, whatever the case may be, if it's a new application, then they'll go immediately to Child Care Aware," Verschraegen said. This is regardless of geographical location.
Child Care Aware has set up two systems: case managers for families - called child care coordinators - and case managers for providers, called provider liaison specialists.
"Each of those two tracks really helps to facilitate finding child care because we can do an enhanced referral, and each family has a primary point of contact who's going to stay with you no matter what," Verschraegen said.
When moving to a new location, a family keeps the same child coordinator, who can help the family find child care options in the new location.
"A case manager stays with that family throughout this whole process," she said.
Child Care Aware has a large network of child care providers - corporate as well as home-based - and constantly recruits for providers, Verschraegen said. While finding accredited child care providers is a priority, if there are no accredited providers in the area, exceptions can be given to providers who are state licensed.
"The Army has invested in quality care, and accreditation, and we want the same for the children of the Army regardless of where they're getting that care," Verschraegen said.
Programs must also meet state requirements for background checks, she added.
"Army child care is inspected 48 times in a year," Verschraegen said. "That is a lot of oversight. That helps give that guaranteed peace of mind."
Since fee assistance is based on a family's total family income, and because a family's income can change, community-based program eligibility and fees are determined annually in a recertification process, Verschraegen said.
"The family has to say 'here's my new leave and earning statement,' and then fees are recalculated," she said. "Our fees are determined by Department of Defense, the DoD fee policy. They are now the same across all the services. One fee each m'nth for each of our nine income categories."
There are discounts available as well, Verschraegen said, like discounts for deployments, those working full time, and Respite Care.
Child care providers must recertify annually as well, Verschraegen said.
"It's important to the Army that we put our children in safe, quality care environments because part of our mission is to help soldiers relieve the frustration with having mission requirements and family requirements that conflict," Verschraegen said. "If a soldier is worried about their child and what's happening to them in child care, then they're not going to have that peace of mind when they go out to do their Army job."
More information is available at armyfeeassistancenaccrra.org.