Child care fees change to maintain services

By Lisa Daniel: American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON — The Defense Department is adjusting its child care fees, adding categories for its highest income earners, to compensate for six years without fee range increases, Pentagon officials announced July 30.

The department’s Military and Community Family Policy Office has added three categories to the top of its fee schedule to go into effect by Sept. 30, said Barbara Thompson, the director of the office of family policy, children and youth.

Each service will issue specific fee guidelines, including exceptions to the fee schedule, and adopt fees within the policy office’s ranges, she said.

The adjustment brings the number of fee categories to nine, causing some people to move into different categories, Thompson said. In the previous fee schedule, which has been in effect since 2004, everyone with a total family income of $70,001 or more was in Category VI, the top level, and paid an average of $124 per child per week.

Under the new schedule, families with a total family income between $73,501 and $85,000 will be in Category VI, and will pay between $122 and $130 per child per week, still under $3 per hour for a 50-hour week, Thompson said.

Here is the new fee schedule:

• Category I: people with incomes of $29,400 or below will pay between $44-$59 per week;

• Category II: people with incomes from $29,401 to $35,700 will pay between $60-$74 per week;

• Category III: people with incomes from $35,701 to $46,200 will pay between $75-$90 per week;

• Category IV: people with incomes from $46,201 to $57,750 will pay between $91-$105 per week;

• Category V: people with incomes from $57,751 to $73,500 will pay between $106-$121 per week;

• Category VI: people with incomes from $73,501 to $85,000 will pay between $122-$130 per week;

• Category VII: people with incomes from $85,001 to $100,000 will pay between $131-$133 per week;

• Category VIII: people with incomes from $100,001 to $125,000 will pay between $134-$136 per week;

• Category IX: people with incomes of $125,001 or above will pay between $137-$139 per week.

There is a high-cost option for installations that meet specific criteria due to the high cost of living and high staff salaries.

Military child care is known as a model for the nation, and funding is evenly split by fees and federal subsidies, Thompson said.

The increased fees are necessary to maintain high quality of care, she said.

The changes come after two years of study that found the fees were not keeping up with inflation and family income, Thompson said.

“We understand that these are tough economic times for families, but we did this very deliberately after careful study,” she said. “When you look at what you’re getting for your child care fees, it’s a wonderful opportunity in a high-quality care environment.”