Now that child development centers are returning to normal operations coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic, most have restarted a prior policy that “supplants” lower-priority children when a higher-priority family — such as an active duty working family — requests care.

There’s long been a shortage of military child care, and of child care nationwide.

A Defense Department policy issued just before the pandemic and implemented in September 2020 gave working military families, including Coast Guard families, higher priority for spaces in child development centers and school-age child care programs.

But for the first time, it also allowed officials to supplant, or displace, children who already were in a child development program, whose parents were in a lower priority category, if the military family was expected to be on a waitlist for more than 45 days after the time they need child care.

DoD officials allowed a pause in the supplanting process during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic; not all the service branches paused the process.

The Navy announced the restart of its supplanting process on Tuesday. That change comes in the peak of moving season for military families, when many families are searching for child care as they move to a new duty station. Air Force officials restarted the service‘s supplanting policy earlier in 2022. The Army never stopped its supplanting procedures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In June, the Navy has restarted the supplanting procedures at six fleet concentration areas with long child care waitlists: Norfolk, Virginia; San Diego; Naval Base Kitsap and Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Washington; Naval Air Station Jacksonville and Naval Station Base Mayport, Florida, said Coleen R. San Nicolas-Perez, spokeswoman for Navy Installations Command.

In July, all other Navy installations will restart the supplanting policy.

Across DoD, working active duty families and certain others can’t be displaced from the child development centers. Families who are displaced receive notice at least 45 days in advance if their child or children must leave the child development center, so they can attempt to find child care elsewhere.

Families who are supplanted also are allowed to reapply for space through MilitaryChildCare.com, which is the DoD’s website for military and DoD-affiliated families seeking child care ranging from the centers, school-age care, family child care homes and fee assistance programs for child care in the civilian community.

Navy officials will review all school-age care programs in the fall to determine if any supplanting will be required, San Nicolas-Perez said.

Some military families felt they were at a disadvantage because they move frequently, while others, such as DoD civilians, don’t move frequently, so those child care spots were locked up. The policy allows lower-priority families to be displaced so that there is more room for military children.

For example, the policy change moved DoD civilians down on the priority list. If a military family moving into the area is expected to be on a waitlist for more than 45 days, a DoD civilian family’s child could be displaced from the DoD child care program to make room for that military child, with a minimum of 45 days notice to the civilian family.

The priorities are as follows:

* Priority 1A ― Child development program staff.

* Priority 1B ― Single/dual military members and military members with a full-time working spouse, including active duty Coast Guard.

* Priority 1C ― Military members with a part-time working spouse or those with a spouse seeking employment.

* Priority 1D ― Military members with a spouse enrolled full-time in a post-secondary institution.

* Priority 2 ― Single/dual Department of Defense civilians or with a full-time working spouse.

* Priority 3 ― Space available.

Those who can’t be supplanted are:

• Child development program direct care staff.

• Active duty combat-related wounded warriors.

• Single/dual active duty military/Coast Guard.

• Single/dual Guard/Reserve on active duty or inactive duty training status.

• Active duty military/Coast Guard with a full-time working spouse.

• Guard/Reserve on active duty or inactive duty training status with a full-time working spouse.

• Gold Star spouses (combat-related).

For the full matrix of who can be supplanted, and by whom, visit MilitaryChildCare.com https://www.mcccentral.com/system/files/downloads/training-center/resources/MilitaryFamilyTypes_Supplanting_0.pdf

Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.

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