Accessible, Reliable Childcare Initiative for Military Families

By Mavia Hanson, Directorate of Prevention, Resilience and ReadinessFebruary 26, 2024

FORT CARSON, Colo. — Three boys in the Strong Beginnings program at Ivy Child Development Center play in the block area March 13, 2020. (Photo by Amber Martin)
FORT CARSON, Colo. — Three boys in the Strong Beginnings program at Ivy Child Development Center play in the block area March 13, 2020. (Photo by Amber Martin) (Photo Credit: Amber Martin) VIEW ORIGINAL

Military Families face unique challenges, especially when it comes to finding reliable childcare. Deployments, PCS moves and long training missions make it difficult for Families with small children to access the support they need. Recognizing this challenge, the Army is taking action to provide better opportunities for Families through the Intergovernmental Support Agreement (IGSA).

The Army is pleased to highlight the IGSA partnership with West Liberty, Iowa, and Clay County, Missouri, working with Upwards (formerly WeeCare). Upwards is the largest childcare network in the United States, committed to providing families with access to quality, affordable care. The partnership allows United States Army Reserve (USAR) Families to access safe, quality, reliable, no-cost childcare during weekend drill and battle assembly trainings. This pilot is the first of its kind and operating in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa and Illinois. The partnership is a one-year pilot program with nine optional years, if successful.

The initiative is beneficial because it provides reliable childcare for 12 hours a day during battle assembly and annual training, allowing reserve Soldiers to fully commit to their service. So far, Upwards has registered over 950 military children. Within just over four months, 269 children have already received high-quality childcare during drill weekends, and every family that signed up has been able to receive childcare support and attention.

Not only does this initiative support military Families, but it also reinforces two priorities of Lt. Gen. Daniels, the 34th chief of Army Reserve and 9th commanding general, U.S. Army Reserve Command: people and readiness. By improving the quality of life for troop program unit (TPU) Soldiers, this program also positively affects recruitment and retention for USAR.

With Upwards, care is customized to the Soldier’s needs, even accommodating unexpected schedule changes. This ensures that Families can confidently report to duty with peace of mind.

And the benefits go beyond just childcare. This initiative supports the quality of life for Soldiers, increasing retention in the U.S. Army Reserve. It resolves the conflict between reserve duties and parental responsibilities, alleviating stress for the Soldier while knowing their children are in safe hands. West Liberty and Clay County chose Upwards for its easy-to-use technological approach via the Upwards app, making it simple to find safe and reliable childcare.

Just ask reserve Soldier Kadine Thompson, who says this program has already been life-changing. “It was like a big burden came off my shoulders,” Thompson says. “I was able to focus and just be at work for the first time.” The result is, Thompson plans to stay in the reserves as long as she can. “I feel very valued and appreciated, like I belong in the I can give my all now, since I’m getting this tremendous help. My kids come first, but if they’re taken care of, I will do everything that my company needs done.”

If you're a reservist drilling in pilot locations, here’s what you can do: Register on the program landing page, via email, or by calling 816-670-3286 to connect with a dedicated care manager.

Or download the Upwards app on your Apple or Android device to create an account and register there.

The Army is looking to expand the pilot program to all components in the future so that all Soldiers can perform their best and know their Families are being taken care of.