SAN ANTONIO, March 30, 2011 -- According to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, barely 10 percent of child development facilities nationwide are accredited. Within the Department of Defense, however, 98 percent of child development programs are accredited.

"We won't connect a military family with a program that we know is not developmentally appropriate and not high quality," said Lee Ratliff, acting Community Based Division chief at Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command.

"Child care is a quality of life issue," he explained. "It's vital our Soldiers know their children are taken care of, that they are in a high-quality environment."

Army Child, Youth and School Services, or CYSS, has been working for more than a decade to ensure Army child care on installations is fully accredited. In recent years, the focus has been to work with the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, known as NACCRRA, to develop quality child care options outside the gates.

More than 14,000 children of active-duty, National Guard and Reserve Soldiers are currently enrolled in Army-sponsored, community-based programs that meet state licensing and/or national accreditation requirements.

Building on the success of Army Child, Youth and School Services, DoD plans to launch an initiative this year to improve the quality and quantity of child care available for Reserve Component personnel and families living in areas not directly supported by a military installation child care system.

DoD will coordinate with federal and state agencies, including health and human services and Head Start, to improve the quality and availability of commercial and community-based child care.

This initiative will also enhance efforts to secure quality, community-based child care options by working with state agencies, including health and human services and Head Start. The DoD can assist in the development of more accredited programs, and those that meet its standards of care will be added to the list of approved providers.

Once the facility or program is approved, servicemembers and families from all services can receive prices comparable to those on post through military subsidies to the child care fees.

Thirteen states have been selected to participate in the pilot program: Alaska, California, Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Texas, Virginia, Vermont and Washington. The states were selected based on a variety of criteria, ranging from lack of a military installations to support of deployed Soldiers (such as Vermont), and the impact on the existing child care system due to high numbers of deployed Soldiers (North Carolina, Kentucky, Texas and Washington).

State liaisons will provide technical and training assistance to those agencies and providers willing to take appropriate steps to improve the quality of care.

"The end goal is to increase the availability of quality child care no matter where they live," Ratliff said. "But this will also help the U.S. improve quality in early childhood environments across the nation."