Military family child care is suffering under Trump hiring freeze.

Trump’s Federal Hiring Freeze Is Worsening the Military’s Child Care Crisis

Trump’s Federal Hiring Freeze Is Worsening the Military’s Child Care Crisis

The XX Factor
What Women Really Think
Feb. 22 2017 4:29 PM

Trump’s Federal Hiring Freeze Is Worsening the Military’s Child Care Crisis

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A soldier holds his son following a homecoming ceremony at Fort Knox in 2014 at Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Luke Sharrett/Getty Images

Just days after his inauguration in January, Trump signed a memorandum that froze most government hiring effective immediately. Now at least two Army bases have suspended some of their child-care programs in response.

Ruth Graham Ruth Graham

Ruth Graham is a regular Slate contributor. She lives in New Hampshire.

In Fort Knox, Kentucky, officials notified families last week that effective immediately, no new children would be enrolled in the base’s Child Development Center. The center is also cutting off hourly and part-time care, including pre-school programs, until further notice. That leaves child care available only to those who are enrolled full-time already. The notice attributed the changes directly to Trump’s hiring freeze, noting that staff turnover and illnesses have created vacancies that the base is now prevented from filling.

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Meanwhile, officials at a base in Wiesbaden, Germany, announced this week that all part-day child-care programs would be suspended thanks to the hiring freeze.

Trump’s memorandum exempted several categories of employees from the freeze, including “positions providing child care to the children of military personnel.” But as the news site Military.com explains, base commanders must secure special permission to fill positions, and the delay makes it effectively impossible to keep up with demand.

Though Trump's memo exacerbated things, the military’s child-care crisis has been a long time coming. Just last week, Sgt. Maj. of the Army Daniel Dailey testified at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that access to child-care was a “huge concern” among military families. More than 5,500 children were on waiting lists for Army child care programs, with an average waiting time of four months. At one base in Hawaii, the wait is 16 months. At a conference last fall, Dailey said child care makes up about half of the Army’s $1.1 billion budget for family programs.

Other factors include an onerous background-check process that took too long for many potential employees even before the extra layer of scrutiny required by Trump’s memorandum. Many qualified care-givers would rather find another job than wait for the military to move forward on their applications. A 2016 survey conducted by the organization Blue Star Families found that 66 percent of military families said they weren’t always able to find the childcare resources they needed.

Trump has promised that the “heroic people” of our military and their families will have “the best medical care, education and support” under his administration. He also promised to maintain a broad hiring freeze on federal employees. It’s increasingly clear that in keeping the second promise, he is breaking the first one. Meanwhile, exit polls suggested veterans voted for Trump by almost a two-to-one margin.