The Department of Defense’s (DOD) Child Care In Your Home (CCYH) Fee Assistance Pilot Program, previously referred to as the In-Home Child Care Pilot, has just passed its first year anniversary.
The CCYH pilot was created to offer another option for military families dealing with scarce child care. It kicked off in July 2021 and is offered in five regions with the greatest child care shortage; San Diego, Hawaii, Norfolk, National Capital Region, and San Antonio.
Often, when PCS orders are received, families find that DOD or Family Care Centers (FCC) at their new duty station have a lengthy waitlist. Many families struggle to find care. Spouses may find they need to put their career and education goals on hold during PCS moves because there is no smooth transition from one care center to another. Military families also often require care outside of the traditional business hours of a child care center and the CCYH pilot program is a welcome addition to improving quality of life among our service families.
In its first year, there are reports that the program is off to a slow start, with the major areas of concerns regarding:
Families as Household Employers:
Hiring Providers and ensuring they meet eligibility requirements
Working with a Third Party Administrator
General Overwhelm about Program Requirements.
Operation Child Care reached out to some of the families accepted into the CCYH program for feedback on the first year. Below, we take a closer look at some of the successes with the program and some of its growing pains.
Families as Employers:
Families participating in the CCYH pilot take on the role of household employer. They are responsible for hiring their own in-home child care providers, and ensuring providers meet eligibility requirements. For families used to child care centers, they now must assume many of the responsibilities these care centers provide.
● Hiring Providers and Ensuring They Meet Eligibility Requirements
DOD or Family Care Centers (FCC) centers are often touted as the gold standard for child care in America (NYT), and for good reason. 95% of these care centers are nationally accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, or NAEYC.
Caregivers must pass a background check and complete 40 hours of training in first aid and emergency care, infant care, administering medication, early childhood development training, and child abuse detection and reporting.
These high standards ensure quality care, and the CCYH pilot program continues to adhere to these standards. However, with the family taking on the role of employer, they are now responsible for understanding and meeting these requirements whereas a DOD or FCC center has dedicated staff for this.
Each DOD or FCC child care center has a training and curriculum specialist with a bachelor’s degree in or relating to early childhood education. They oversee that training needs are met and received. Other staff members at these care centers are in charge of payroll and taxes, which with the CCYH pilot program, this now falls to the family.
One family accepted into the pilot program considers the program a vital resource in helping families secure quality care, but pointed out that they have prior experience in hiring in-home providers. They stated that for families without this prior experience, it might be a difficult transition into the pilot:
“The majority of military members have never hired someone before, specifically a household employee. The majority of military members [have] never filed household employee taxes… The amount of hours, the amount of expertise, and the overall level of effort required to hire well is not something our military families naturally have experience with from their current roles. It is a whole new set of skills that require trial and effort, countless hours, and learning.”
● Compensating Providers
If a family is accepted into CCYH, they are also responsible for compensating their provider, and families have run into issues with the program not disclosing specific compensation amounts.
One family opted out of the pilot due to this:
“We were approved for it but opted to switch to daycare. [The CCYH pilot program] never disclosed an amount so we were not able to determine how much we could afford and therefore could not offer nannies a salary amount. Having an estimated or actual amount would have allowed us to appropriately budget and then offer a solid compensation package. We could not stay competitive with other local families hiring nannies. It was such a challenge to all of a sudden learn how to hire a nanny. We had no idea how to do it and did not know how to review references either. Realistically we couldn’t promise specific hours because of our jobs and we didn’t know how to successfully work through that with a nanny.”
Another program requirement is that providers work full-time - a minimum of 30 hours per week up to a maximum of 60 hours.
Another family reported running into issues because of this:
“ I go back to work in two weeks and still have not been able to hire a Nanny who is willing to 1) work 40hrs 2) willing to fulfill all the extra [CCYH] requirements. The one lady who is currently considering it is having us pay her rate for the training/fingerprinting etc (equates to a full week's worth of pay). The 30 hr minimum makes it hard as well, because my other option is hiring two part-time Nannies, but [CCYH] won’t cover that.”
Families are tasked with finding, vetting, hiring, and training providers that meet their family’s needs and values. To stay competitive, being able to offer compensation packages, provide payment for background checks and fingerprinting, and anticipate costs and fees, are vital components to this program’s success.
One CCYH family suggested:
“Cost/benefit is important for families as they determine if they want to or can invest the time in the program. Families deserve to know delays, expected time and fiscal costs for their family and the potential benefits.”
● Taxes - Military One Source
When assuming the role of household employer, families are also responsible for taxes. After completing a lengthy three-step process to gain acceptance into the program, replete with supporting application, medical, W9, financial, background, fingerprinting, certification, and eligibility documentation, CCAoA states on their website:
“...families will be considered employers of their selected in-home care providers and should review both The Importance of Creating Your Child Care Agreement and the related tax considerations resource for household employees. Military parents who employ providers in their home may reach out to Military OneSource tax consultantsany time, if they have questions about these tax implications.”
Feedback about household employers taxes for families in the pilot program leans toward being overwhelmed by the lack of detailed information and difficulty reaching a Military One Source tax consultants knowledgeable about the pilot’s specific tax needs.
One family suggested: “Make the tax section as clear as possible. Let families know which form CCYH will be providing (1099-NEC). This impacts what the provider can write off and it can help the family present a better compensation package to the provider. Also let the family know their provider will receive the tax form in the year they receive funds, not necessarily in the year they worked. This has serious implications for taxes for families. For families who have never done household employee taxes before, this is a huge change to their family finances.”
Household employer-related taxes have the potential to add additional expenses for military families. This is an area of the CCYH pilot program that would benefit from in-depth training and professional assistance for families as they learn to navigate the in-home care world.
Third Party Administrator - Child Care Aware of America
Child Care Aware of America (CCAoA) administers the CCYH Pilot Program. CCAoA works with a network of 400 child care resources, partners, and agencies to ensure families have access to quality child care. For military families unable to get their child into subsidized on-base care centers, CCAoA has partnered with the Department of Defense (DOD) to authorize subsidized civilian child care for centers that meet eligibility criteria.
CCAoA is comprised of staff members who understand the ins and outs of child care programs. They strive to increase availability and quality child care, and they are an important resource for military families. But while CCAoA’s dedicated staff work hard to understand policies, eligibility, staffing, taxes, payroll, research, and advocacy for these programs, these criteria change when it comes to in-home care.
Speaking with one of CCYH’s pilot family members, at the program’s one year mark, they have not worked with any CCYH team members that have direct experience with in-home care practices such as the nanny hiring process, facilitating nanny training, creating provider contract and compensation packages, how to handle overtime or other payment distribution issues, and general educational and information sharing.
The CCAoA webpage for the pilot does not list its team members or how to contact them, and its FAQ’s links to the Military Child Care homepage. The CCYH FAQ on militarychildcare.com provides less information than CCAoA’s webpage. Anything pertaining to taxes on either website is directed to Military One Source.
Automation of administrative processes and increased communication with CCAoA staff was one of the suggestions to help families navigate the program’s requirements:
“Create an interactive checklist online or an app for families and providers to see what is required and easily track what is missing. Including signatures, dates, and pictures would be helpful so that families know who is working on each topic. This may help decrease emails and phone calls and the overall burden on the [CCYH] Team.”
Overwhelm about Program Eligibility Requirements
As CCYH begins its second year, the overwhelming concern is having a more streamlined process for families to meet the requirements of this program.
Families want this program to succeed. One family reported that after being accepted into the program and receiving fee assistance, that they were able to take their first family vacation in 9 years. This is a huge step in improving quality of life among military families.
The first year of such a ground-breaking program has been important for understanding what is working for families and what needs improvement. Some common requests are for:
Training families how to hire, vet, and train providers
Improved communication with CCAoA
Automated and streamlined processes for:
Completing eligibility requirements
Compensation packages and payment
Partnering with nanny agencies or providing lists of pre-approved providers
The Child Care in Your Home Pilot Program is a major step toward improving military families' access to quality child care. Making the in-home care process easier on families is vital to its success.