The Military Child Care Act of 1989

Michelle M. Bessette


The Department of Defense (DoD) operates the largest employer-sponsored child care in the nation. For Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and more, the Military Child Care Act (MCCA) of 1989 was enacted to establish law-mandated standards for all branches. Providing high-quality, available child care to service members helps maintain a mission ready force. Before the passing of the MCCA, the services’ child care programs were tainted with poor oversight, deplorable conditions and child abuse scandals detailed in GAO reports and congressional hearings. Investigations and legislative activity leading up to the passing of the MCCA, which became law under the National Defense Authorization Act of 1990 and 1991, forced the DoD to take responsibility for a new breed of service members—the military family.

As a military spouse with children and employee of the DoD who co-supervises a child development center (CDC), I understand the importance of the MCCA and am able to witness DoD’s investment in their military families. The history of abhorrent conditions has all but vanished, due in part to public access of government publications. The timeline of this legislation in combination with nongovernment publications helps tell the story of the how the military model of child care became one in which the civilian sector strives to accomplish. My decade long career of federal service, my desire to be more knowledgeable of the original MCCA and my interest in military history inspired my research. My intended audience are those unfamiliar to military child care and those who may not understand the needs and sacrifices of our nation’s military families.

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