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The Military Child Care System offers lessons learned to strengthen federal, state, territory, municipality, and tribal child care systems.

In April 1997, the White House issued a Memorandum for the Secretary of Defense on: "Using Lessons Learned from the Military Child Development Programs to Improve the Quality of Child Care in the United States."

It included this statement from President William Clinton:

“The Military Child Development Programs have attained a reputation for an abiding commitment to quality in the delivery of child care... I believe that the military has important lessons to share with the rest of the Nation on how to improve the quality of child care for all our Nation’s children. I therefore direct you, consistent with existing statutory authority to share the expertise and lessons learned from the Military Child Development Programs with Federal, State, Tribal and Local Agencies, as well as with private and nonprofit entities that are responsible for providing child care to our nation’s children...”

Two decades later, AEM is leading that effort, seeking to answer the question: What would it take for states, territories, municipalities, tribes, and corporate entities with franchises, employer-sponsored programs, and federal entities with multi-site locations to transform their early childhood programs into scalable, sustainable high-quality systems in a similar fashion?

The Military Child Care system has 95% of their programs accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and they have developed a myriad of high-quality materials that should be shared as is or adapted to help states and municipalities improve child care programs.

Military Child Care Components

So what makes the system so successful? There are four interdependent components: 

Quality: Nationally accredited and regulated care options provided by a well-trained and compensated stable workforce in safe, functional facilities.

Affordability: Shared Family and Military Public Investment financial responsibilities adjusted for geographical locations:

  1. Sliding fees for families based on their total family income
  2. Competitive wages and benefits for the child care workforce
  3. Strong return on investment (workforce productivity) for Military and the Nation

: Access to the right places/options/hours that meet the needs of all children and working parents and reduces stress on families.

Accountability: Ongoing compliance with both defined nationally recognized and unique employer-related (DoD) program standards measured by input, output and outcome metrics.

Available Materials and Lessons

AEM Corporation, with funding from the Kelley Family Foundation and the Heising-Simons Foundation, has modified Department of Defense Military Child Development Program materials that can be shared with policymakers at the federal, state, territory, municipality, and tribal levels to strengthen child care systems. The adapted materials and lessons learned are divided into six components:

  1. Strategies and Policies
  2. Financing
  3. Facilities
  4. Leadership and Workforce
  5. Program Operations
  6. Programs and Delivery

If you would like consulting on ideas to strengthen your current child care system, please contact our team via

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