I'm a military spouse and childcare drained my savings. My husband and I lived paycheck to paycheck for a year.

  • Kayla Corbitt is a military wife and nonprofit founder who turned down a job because of childcare.

  • She spent $5,000 for four months' worth of part-time daycare services while she searched for work.

  • Corbit says many military families need help with navigating the childcare system.

This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Kayla Corbitt, a 35-year-old nonprofit founder and military wife from San Antonio, Texas, about having to turn down a job because of childcare. It's been edited for length and clarity.

I had my first child in 2018 when my husband, who is in the military, and I lived on a military base in Italy. We were planning to move back to the United States, so I began learning about childcare programs for military families in the US. I found a program called the 90-day Looking-for-Work program that would cover childcare for 90 days while I looked for a job.

My goal was to look for a job once we returned to the US and get childcare funding from the DoD. We couldn't afford daycare without it.

Kayla Corbitt and her family moved from a US military base in Italy to the DMV area.
Corbitt returned to the US from Italy in 2019.Courtesy of Kayla Corbitt

In April 2019, we moved back to the US into the DMV area. I felt confident about moving back and resettling in the US. We had to spend a couple thousand dollars to relocate, but we had about $8,000 left in savings when we got approved for the 90-day "Looking for Work" childcare subsidy.

Thirty days after I enrolled my son into daycare, I found out the center hadn't been getting paid. I went back and forth with the program for another three months while my child attended daycare centers that turned out to be no longer approved by the program.

Eventually, my family was denied reimbursement. We spent almost all of the savings we had left on daycare costs.

I got a job offer but couldn't accept it because of childcare issues

For four months, my husband and I paid out of pocket for the daycare center while waiting to get approved. We used up about $5,000 of our savings, paying $834 a month for part-time childcare in addition to the downpayment and other fees.

In the meantime, I got a job offer. I went through the hiring process, including the interview and background check with a company that is a contractor for the DoD. They offered me $40,000 a year for the job. However, after being continuously denied for the daycare center and spending all our savings on childcare, I declined the job offer to stay home with my child.

My husband's income barely met our needs, so I needed a job, but I couldn't afford to pay any more money out of pocket for the daycare center.

We lost so much money while trying to find an approved daycare center that we ended up living paycheck to paycheck for a year.

My family had to take out a $2,000 loan

After about a year, we had to take out an Army Emergency Relief loan for $2,350. This is a loan given to military families for financial assistance. It was a shameful experience.

Since we couldn't get approved for the 90-Day Looking-for-Work program, I applied to another childcare subsidy program for military families, the MCCYN+ program. We got approved by this program and began looking for daycare centers that it would approve. I also began applying for more jobs.

In September 2020, I finally found a daycare center that qualified for a military assistance program. This time, I knew I couldn't rely on the information on the DoD website, so I became an expert on daycare certifications and the vetting process.

Around the same time, I got another job offer. I coordinated starting the new job and getting the new daycare center approved so that I wouldn't have to pay out of pocket and could start saving money.

Many military families need help with childcare

I accepted my new job offer and was hired as a contractor for the Military Family Readiness System. I helped military families find resources to improve their lives during that time. Once I started working, we could repay the loan and save again.

Because I became an expert in this situation, I began advocating for other military families. I founded a nonprofit, Operation Childcare Project, where we conduct case management for military and veteran families who need help understanding and navigating childcare.

Many military families like mine need help with childcare. My case is not unique.

If you have a unique childcare experience or hack and want to share your story, please email Manseen Logan at mlogan@businessinsider.com

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