By Sharilyn Wells/ParaglideJune 24, 2011
FORT BRAGG , N.C. - Choosing a child care facility can be stressful, not to mention, expensive. According to the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, the average cost to send an infant to a full-time child care center in the state of North Carolina is $8,508 a year. In the United States, child care centers can cost parents anywhere from $4,620 to $18,773 a year. Prices drop, although not significantly, as the child gets older, or when full-time turns into before and after school programs. To put the astronomical child care fees into perspective, a four-year, state college tuition average cost is $5,196 per year.
Parents are definitely feeling the strain of financial pain when seeking quality child care.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Felicia Banks, 82nd Sustainment Brigade, found that her friends were paying significantly less money for child care than she was and didn’t understand why. That’s when she was referred to NACCRRA’s military partnership program.
“(People) always find out about NACCRRA by accident,” said Banks. “And it’s because no one knows about it even though the program is absolutely amazing.”
NACCRRA offers child care financial assistance to military members serving in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force. According to NACCRRA’s web site they work with the U.S. military services to help those who serve in the military find and afford child care that suits their unique needs.
“I’m a CW4, I get paid more than a private, but my private didn’t know about the program,” explained Banks. “She was struggling financially to keep out of debt (due to child care fees), and now she is saving so much that she can focus on other things rather than money.”
The good thing about NACCRRA is that the financial aide that is offered doesn’t depend on the rank of the servicemember. For Banks, a chief warrant officer 4 with two children, she was being compared to a lieutenant colonel for on post child care fees. But upon moving to Fort Bragg, she decided that off-post child care was a better fit for her and her children and that’s when NACCRRA came into play.
Banks wants to bring attention to the benefits of NACCRRA and suggests that Soldiers should be briefed on it upon in processing to Fort Bragg, in the welcome brief, or even on Fort Bragg’s web site.
“People tell me that I’m making an impact on my Soldiers by telling them about NACCRRA, but I’m not the highest ranking official out there,” Banks explained. “Yeah, I’m making an impact on my Soldiers, but who’s telling the others? Someone has to be out there feeding this to our Soldiers to help them out.”
Banks admitted that NACCRRA pays almost 50 percent of her children’s before and after school programs and all it took was one afternoon to fill out the application.
“The process is so simple,” Banks said. “The biggest challenge parents will have is finding the right child care for their children. I mean NACCRRA even backpays you! I finished my application in December, but the processing didn’t get done until maybe February, but I got paid back from December.”
Almost anyone can participate in NACCRRA’s Army program; active-duty Soldiers, Reserve and active Guard Soldiers, and even Army civilians are eligible. The only stipulation is that the spouse must be working, looking for work, or attending school. The program also has specific programs to help out with the Families of wounded warriors and survivors of fallen Soldiers.
Parents can research online or talk to a counselor to find the right child care facility. Once research is done or a counselor helps parents narrow down certain daycares to meet the specifications needed, parents can then physically check out the facilities to make a final decision. A qualifying child care needs to be state-licensed, has had a state licensing inspection within the past 12 months and has to be rated a four or five star (in North Carolina).
“This is an amazing program that everyone should know about,” said Banks. “We need to get the word out to our Soldiers.”
For more information visit NACCRRA’s website at www.NACCRRA.org.