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Child Care Options For Military Families With Special Needs

Finding the right care for your child with special needs starts with asking the right questions. The military offers quality, affordable child care options, both on the installation and off. However, not all child care providers are familiar with caring for a child with special needs. Here are some questions to help you find the perfect fit and make the best child care decision for your child with special needs.

What are my child's rights?

The Americans with Disabilities Act protects children against discrimination from child care programs, unless the child's presence would pose a direct threat to the health or safety of others or require a fundamental alteration of the program.

You should also know:

  • Military and civilian child care programs must make reasonable accommodations to integrate children with disabilities.
  • Programs cannot assume that a child's disability is too severe for successful integration.
  • There must be an individualized assessment based on professional observations, past history and standard assessment criteria.

What types of installation child care settings are out there?

There may be several child care options on your installation:

  • Child development centers — On your installation, you'll usually find a child development center offering care for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years. Hours may vary but are typically 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on weekdays, year-round. Some centers offer part-time and hourly care, too. Your child would be placed with other children in the same age group, who may or may not have disabilities.
  • Family child care homes — Family child care homes, also known as child development homes, may be a good choice for your child. In their own home, providers care for a small group of children of all abilities, up to age 12. The home may be on or off the installation and may offer additional hours, such as before and after school, nights and weekends.
  • School-age care programs — These programs for children ages 6 to 12 are usually open before and after school, on holidays and for summer day camp. These care programs may use space in a child development center, but are more often located in youth centers or schools. The children receive a planned curriculum and the ability to interact with their peers, who may or may not have disabilities.
  • Installation programs for youth and teens — For children ages 12 to 18, many military installations offer activities and classes at youth or community centers. These programs are open to children with and without special needs.

What is the best setting for my child with special needs?

If your child has special needs, your service will work closely with you to find the best placement for your child. You can contact your installation child development center to learn more about child care options for your family. Each installation works with a multi-disciplinary Inclusion Action team that includes the parent in the discussion of how to best meet the individuals needs of the child.

How do I find child care in the civilian community?

If you don't have access to installation child development programs or you prefer to have your child cared for off the installation, you still have options.

Installation Resource and Referral programs

Most installation child development services programs have a Resource and Referral office to help you find the right care for your child with disabilities. Keep in mind:

  • This office may be the first contact when you are looking for child care resources.
  • MilitaryINSTALLATIONS is the place to find contact information for military child development Resource and Referral offices.

Other Agencies

The Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force work with Child Care Aware of America to make quality community-based child care more affordable and accessible to military families.

You may also contact the Exceptional Family Member Program to explore child care resources for families with special needs.