Bass: Addressing Childcare Shortage Will Take a ‘Whole of Air Force Approach’

Air Force child development centers can accommodate less than one-fifth of eligible children, and top service leaders are looking at ways to address the issue, particularly as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic are still being understood.

“We have about an 18 percent capacity on base to take care of children that are within the age of going to childcare or school,” Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne S. Bass said during a question-and-answer session as part of the AFA’s virtual Air, Space & Cyber Conference. “So, that’s a challenge right?”

To get after the issue, Air Force installations and their communities need to work together to “build a network” of options to try to make up that gap.

“If we don’t have that capacity on base, which, that is a separate line item that we have got to address and get after, then we’ve got to build the networks in the communities [so] that we have childcare options for families,” Bass said. “It is extremely hard for our single parents and dual working parents … to be able to get after that.”

On an interim basis, the push for more teleworking because of the COVID-19 pandemic has shown that Airmen can effectively work from home more often, and this could potentially free up some space in the child development centers, Bass said. For the longer term, “It is being looked at at the most senior levels in the Air Force,” she said.

Bass wants local leadership, especially first line supervisors, to work with Airmen and understand their individual situations to try to find ways to address problems.

“We’ve got to get to know our Airmen and know their challenges and help figure out a way to allow them to be able to be purposeful in our military and be able to take care of their families,” she said. “And it is different for everybody, depending on what squadron they’re in and where they sit.”