ARLINGTON, Va. - For National Guard members who are about to deploy there is a lot think about before heading overseas.
Changes have to be made to school and work schedules; arrangements have to be made for routine household chores; but for many, child care is one thing that weighs heaviest on their minds.
For Guard family members, there is help.
The National Guard's Child Care Subsidy Program works to assist spouses and family members with the costs of child care during deployment.
The program, which has been around for about five years, grew out of a program initially designed for deploying active-duty personnel, said Mike Conner, chief of program services for the National Guard Bureau's Family Program office.
"There was an increased need for child care on the (military) installation," said Conner. "When the deployments occurred, the daycare centers on the installations were already at the peak. This made it even higher and the stress just increased."
As a result, changes were made to allow those on active duty to receive a subsidy to use off-post child care, said Conner. Guard and Reserve members were later made eligible as long as they were in Title 10 status.
"If you are deployed in Title 10 status and your spouse is either working or in school full time you are eligible for a child care subsidy," said Conner.
Recently, those on Title 32 Active Guard/Reserve orders were also added to the eligibility list.
The subsidy program is coordinated through the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, which approves applications and determines the amount paid as part of the subsidy.
Though Guardmembers of all ranks may take part in the program, the amount of the subsidy is based on a variety of factors, rank not being one of them.
"(There are) a number of things taken into consideration," said Dr. Kathryn Goedde, the program manager. "They look at total family income, they look at the number of children, they look at the type of child care needed. For instance, full-time care for an infant is going to be way more expensive than after-school care for an elementary-aged child."
Though no matter what, the minimum amount paid out is $100 per child per month, said Goedde.
"So even if you can't provide all your information, they're going to issue $100 per month per child," said Goedde. "Once you provide all your information then that may go up."
There are, however, stipulations as to which child care providers are eligible to be used as part of the subsidy.
One of those stipulations is that the child care provider must be licensed by the state, which may create problems because certain states donÊ¼t license them at all.
In that case, an "exception to policy" letter is needed. "We also write a lot of exception to policy letters, because only about 40 percent of the states use the term 'licensed' in their legislation for child care," said Goedde.
A call center has been set up to help Guardmembers navigate the paperwork process required to receive the subsidy.
"There are 15 folks there, and we train themto within an inch of their livesso when a family member calls they have the right answer," said Goedde. "And if they don't have the right answer, there is somebody sitting right next to them that does."
The call center has been set up to make it easier for Guardmembers to apply. Previously, Guardmembers had to contact NACRA and navigate the system on their own.
"Now when you call, you either get a live person or somebody calls you back within about two hours," said Conner. "Some of them are Guardsmen, some of them are Guard spouses, so they know what you're going through."
Once the call center is contacted, those at the call center fill out the application and all the paperwork for the Guardmember and submit it to NACRA for approval.
"We do the application for (the Guardmember), so they're not required to figure anything out," said Goedde. "We take them through step-by-step. We then follow up with their provider and we fill out the provider application as well."
To date, more than 1,100 Guardmembers have taken advantage of the program, said Conner.
For more information on the program visit the National Guard Family Program's Web site atwww.guardfamily.orgor call 1-888-642-2799.