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Free or Discounted Child Care Agencies for Military Families

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Childcare is critical, especially during activities such as archery. Photo courtesy of The New York Public Library.

According to my father-in-law, Cokes used to cost only a nickel, everybody liked Ike, and the world was a swell place. Childcare was easy to find in this world also, since family was always nearby and you had known the neighbor’s kids their whole lives. Sadly, military people have never lived in this world. Thanks to frequent moves and the slow but sure movement to off-base housing, childcare is a big challenge for some military families.

The internet-based babysitter/care provider agency Sittercity offers a special for military families. Membership in Sittercity, which is usually about $30 a month depending on your payment plan, is free for military members. Simply go to the appropriate webpage (www.sittercity.com/dod) and fill out the online forms. The service uses the DEERS database to confirm your status, and within minutes you are a member of the Sittercity community for no cost. Similarly, Sittercity rival Care.com offers military families a 25% discount off their membership fees.

Both Sittercity and Care.com are clearinghouses for potential babysitters, nannies, pet sitters, and other caregivers. Families can list jobs for which caregivers can apply, or families can browse caregivers’ profiles, using sorting criteria to find potential matches. Each site offers the option to have caregivers agree to a background check, which runs a basic search to make sure your new nanny doesn’t have any outstanding warrants or a criminal record.

My family has used Sittercity for some time, and found it invaluable for finding childcare when we moved to our current duty station. We also tried Care.com, but decided we didn’t need to use two services that offered essentially the same product. It probably goes without saying that only membership in Sittercity is free, the cost of any babysitter you hire is yours. Additionally, if you request a background check on any provider, you must pay for those as well. Many caregivers already have a background check completed, so that cost is negated.

Our only critique of Sittercity is their communication. Twice we have received e-mails from Sittercity telling us one of our caregivers had been expelled from the service for some violation of their policy. When we contacted Sittercity, they would not specify what transgression the caregiver had committed. This was concerning because failure to pay membership fees on time is quite a different ball of wax than being arrested for dealing drugs.

Ultimately, we were pleased that Sittercity warned us of a potential problem, but dismayed that they wouldn’t offer details. We talked to the caregivers themselves and found out in both cases it was to our minds a trifling matter. The safety of our child wasn’t Sittercity’s responsibility in any case, and we would rather they erred on the side of caution with their notifications. Given the value of the service they provide and the sheer volume of other potential caregivers, this criticism was not enough to turn us off from Sittercity.

If you’re in the position of changing duty stations or your favorite caregiver has moved away, finding childcare is likely going to be on your “to do” list. In addition to your church and perhaps the squadron wives’ club, internet caregiver agencies can be a great place to find the help your family needs. By utilizing the discounted or free promotions from these agencies, you have a great tool available to lessen the stresses that go along with the military lifestyle.