For more than a decade, families of the United States Army 7th Special Forces Group have struggled with finding safe and accessible child care.
Earlier this month, a “CBS Mornings” investigation revealed some Army Special Forces soldiers in Florida were driving up to three hours round-trip every day to take their kids to child care or leaving the service altogether.
After that investigation, Army Secretary Christine Wormuth announced that they have plans to build a new child development center at Camp Bull Simons for the 7th Special Forces group families.
Wormuth, who is the first woman to serve as secretary of the Army, said she takes child care personally.
“I have had that experience of racing to drop my kids off at the day care center and get into work on time or racing to get out to pick them up and sort of being the last parent to pick them up and getting the stink eye from the workers,” said Wormuth.
Over 11,000 children in military families are waiting for child care.
While a new child development center will be built on Camp Bull Simons, Wormuth said the Army plans to improve child care access to more bases with greater stipends for daycare and at least 20 new child care facilities in the next decade.
They are also facing the same staffing shortages that civilian day care centers are seeing. To help with recruiting, Wormuth said they are raising the pay for these positions.
“We’re in a war for talent, frankly, so we’re trying to raise our pay,” she said.
Wormuth said that child care issues in the Army are “a readiness issue” and one that they take very seriously as it can impact the overall mission.
“We don’t want a situation where someone is distracted from the main thing, which is doing their job because they’re worried about their kids, or we don’t want to lose a good soldier because they weren’t able to make the child care work,” Wormuth said.
It’s expected to take three years for the new child development center at Camp Bull Simons to be completed. CBS News has confirmed that the Army and Air Force recently signed a formal agreement that provides some short-term fixes for the 7th Special Forces group families.