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More off-base child care options available for military families in North Carolina

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Military families in North Carolina will have more child care options, thanks to the expansion of a U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) program.

North Carolina, with the fourth-largest military presence in the country, is one of eight states and localities chosen for the Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood-PLUS (MCCYN Plus) program, which helps military families afford child care when there are no on-base options. The program provides up to $1,700 per month per child, depending on income, location, and child care rates.

Military families have been able to choose from 294 community-based programs in the state through the original program, according to a press release from the state Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). The “PLUS” expansion allows for many more programs to participate.

Any child care program with three or more stars on the state’s quality rating scale is now eligible.

The DOD changed the requirements for providers, switching from a national accreditation to the ratings on states’ licensed quality rating systems. There are 2,500 child care centers and homes that meet the requirement in North Carolina’s “counties closest to major military installations,” the DHHS press release said.

“This program will make it easier for military families to get quality child care from community providers,” Gov. Roy Cooper said Tuesday at a press conference at the Creative Academy Early Learning Center in Goldsboro. “We’ll keep working to support North Carolina’s military families while also making sure our troops are mission ready as they bravely serve our nation.”

Child Care Aware of America, a national nonprofit, administers the program and has more information for interested providers and families.

Some child care advocates have lifted up the military’s model as a potential solution to child care shortages and high costs for the rest of the country. The DOD spends more than $1 billion per year on child care.

“When a person serves in the military, the family serves, too. Our service women and men deserve to know that their families are safe and have all they need,” Walter Gaskin, secretary of the state Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, said at the press conference Tuesday. “MCCYN Plus is a way to provide that support and confidence to our active duty military.”

Liz Bell

Liz Bell is the early childhood reporter for EducationNC.