2. Study Methods

Three methods were employed to collect information about military child care:
  • Interviews with DoD policymakers and those responsible for child care policy and operations in each service;
  • Observations and interviews on 16 military installations with people who administer and run programs and with parents; and
  • Secondary analyses of data from the RAND Arroyo Center Survey of Army Families.
Each method provided a different perspective on child development services and contributed to our understanding of the issues within a broader framework.

Interviews with DOD Policymakers

Between August 1990 and January 1991, we met with key child care staff responsible for child care policy at the DoD level and within each service. During these meetings, we discussed issues facing child care in the military, including the implementation and implications of the Military Child Care Act (MCCA) of 1989 and the implications of the drawdown on child development services. Respondents included Force Management and Personnel (FM&P) staff, and in each service, deputy assistant secretaries responsible for personnel issues, deputy chiefs of staff, child development program managers, and MWR and family support directors.

Site Visits to Selected Installations

We visited 16 installations distributed fairly evenly among the four branches of military service. The purpose of these visits, which were made between April and November of 1990, was to understand how child care is delivered at the installation level.[1] Visits provided information about the military community and about the context for child development services.

Selection of Installations. We asked the child development program manager in each service to recommend appropriate sites and to set up our visits. We asked to visit sites which were varied in terms of child care quality, installation and CDC size, installation mission, proximity to a metropolitan area, and geographic location (e.g., in the United States or overseas).

The installations visited included:

  • Air Force: Andrews, Barksdale, Edwards, Rhein Main
  • Army: Fort Carson, Fort Irwin, Fort Monroe, Frankfurt MILCOM
  • Marines: Camp Pendleton, El Toro, Twentynine Palms
  • Navy: Long Beach, Miramar, Port Hueneme, Subbase San Diego, Norfolk
Who We Interviewed. Since our goal was to understand current policies and objectives that govern the way child development services are provided on military installations, we spoke not only with child development service staff but with staff from other family support services. In addition, we interviewed MWR directors, installation-level command, and parent users of CDS services.[2] Respondents on each installation included:
  • Installation commander or other command-level individual
  • MWR director
  • CDS director
  • CDC staff (i.e., caregivers in center)
  • Family day care provider(s)
  • Parent consumers of both CDC and FDC care (in different ranks)
  • Parent advisory group representatives (when such a group existed on the installation)
  • Wait-listed parents
  • Youth activities director
  • Family services director

What Did We Ask?

Where appropriate, we asked respondents to describe general installation characteristics such as size and mission. We also asked about the organizational structure of the installation, MWR programs and Family Services programs offered, and where child development services programs fit into that structure.

We asked CDS staff about the types of services offered, their patterns of staffing, reporting requirements, and coordination with other related programs. We also asked about funding priorities and program financing.

Our interviews focused on the organization and delivery of child care, and how those services are administered and funded. In addition to information about formal policies and procedures that govern child care, we asked about the informal processes involved in delivering such services.

All respondents were asked to describe what they felt was the main purpose of military-sponsored child care. We also solicited their opinions about the most important child care issues in the military (e.g., equity, institutional obstacles, parental conflicts) and how important the issue of quality was to them. Finally, we asked each interviewee about the MCCA. Interviews were confidential. Interview data were transcribed and analyzed on the basis of research objectives and hypotheses.

Secondary Data Analyses

The data for our secondary analyses were drawn from the RAND Arroyo Center Survey of Army Families, fielded in 1987. This study was conducted by RAND's Arroyo Center to assist the Army in defining its support policies toward soldiers and members of their families (Burnam et al., 1992). Because of continuing changes in military family structure, spouse labor force participation, and military child care programs, these data are somewhat dated; they nonetheless provide us with some useful insights concerning child care use and readiness implications.

The survey collected data from a sample of both soldiers (N = 6014) and spouses (N = 3143). The sample was drawn using a three-stage stratified random sampling design that allowed for more powerful analyses of contextual factors associated with family well-being and service needs and use.

In the first stage, a sample of 23 installations was drawn. Installations were stratified into categories based on location (overseas or domestic), size (installations with under 1000 active soldiers were excluded), dominant mission, and proximity to a large civilian metropolitan area.

In the second sampling stage, companies at each installation were selected randomly and proportionately to the number of companies in each branch (e.g., Armored, Infantry, Engineers) represented at each installation.[3]

Finally, soldiers were selected within companies using a weighted probability random-sampling strategy to ensure adequate numbers of both officers and enlisted personnel, junior and career soldiers, male and female soldiers, single and married soldiers, and soldiers with and without children (Burnam et al., 1992).

The overall response rate was 71 percent, with soldiers slightly more likely to respond than spouses. Of those who responded, 2528 had accompanying children under the age of 12 years; 697 had children but were not accompanied by them at the time of the survey. Of the 2528 parents with accompanying children, 2265 (90 percent) were married; the remaining 263 (10 percent) were single. For this report, we analyzed the data from 1031 parents with preschool-aged children (aged 0-5 years) who were accompanying their parents at the time of the survey.


[1]Because of the timing of our interviews and visits, Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm had had little impact as yet on CDS.

[2]We use the term Child Development Services to describe the organizational unit that provides and oversees child care. However, some services use a slightly different term (e.g., Air Force uses Child Development Program).

[3]For logistical and cost reasons, two constraints were imposed upon the selection of companies. First, the number of companies was not to exceed 40 at any installation, and second, the number of soldiers selected in each company was not to exceed half the respective total number of soldiers (Burnam et al., 1992).


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