So, how many military spouses out there know that you qualify for free childcare when your husband is deployed? I learned this just in time for our last deployment, and it was a lifesaver! It is called Deployment Respite Care. Each child qualifies for 16 hours free per month. This service is offered through NACCRRA (The National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies). They actually do much more than just assist during deployments. They assist military families in finding qualified daycare providers at any time, and offer subsidies based on your location. Their website is: NACCRRA.
Signing up for the free care is a bit of a process, but it is worth it. First, you will need a copy of your husband's deployment orders, stating the location of his deployment. (Iraq and Afghanistan get immediate approval, other locations can take longer to approve.) Then, call NACCRRA at: 1-800-424-2246 and they will give you a fax number or e-mail contact for your local representative, which is where you send a copy of the orders. Once the local office approves you for Respite Care, you then go in person and fill out paperwork for each of your children. Once that is processed, you will be given a list of local approved childcare providers. You can interview, visit, and meet with the providers before you make your choice. Once everything is finalized between you and the chosen provider, you can begin to schedule your free hours of daycare!
Last deployment we had a provider on base, who watched children in her own home. This was a great arrangement, because my kids seemed more comfortable in a home setting, and got to know the other kids well, since she was limited to a few children at a time. The entire program was supervised and subsidized, so she provided healthy meals and creative activities for the kids. I usually scheduled 4 hours at a time, once a week, and would use that break to get groceries, go to the gym, or do something else that was challenging with children in tow. It was a huge relief to know I had a few child-free hours to look forward to for the various errands and unexpected chores that come up during deployments! Plus I never felt guilty about leaving them because it was free and good quality care! If you have a deployment coming soon, make sure you are registered for this program!