A new app that streamlines and centralizes parents’ ability to temporarily “sublet” military child care spaces is being tested at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont.
Kinderspot, as the app is called, is available to all Defense Department families stationed at an Air Force base where the app is available, said Emilie Miller, an innovation program analyst with Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center, in an email response to Military Times.
The app is the brainchild of Air Force Maj. Jacque Vasta, Air Force Personnel Center headquarters section commander. She described the concept as “similar to what you would use for Airbnb, but instead of subleasing your house or apartment, you’re subleasing your child’s spot at the [child development center],” in a press release from the Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center.
In the week since it’s been available at Malmstrom AFB, there have been about 100 downloads of the app, Miller said. Rollout to seven more test bases begins this month: Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.; MacDill AFB, Fla.; Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, Washington, D.C.; Joint Base Andrews, Md.; Schriever Space Force Base, Colo.; Peterson Space Force Base, Colo.; and Luke AFB, Ariz. Officials will continue rolling it out to other bases this year and next.
Right now it’s an Air Force program, although two joint bases in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area — which have child development centers that serve military families from multiple branches — will start testing it soon. And the concept could expand. “We are hopeful that as we test, everyone will see the value of Kinderspot so we can potentially scale across the services,” Miller said.
Defense and service officials have been working on various ideas to help meet the need for child care among military parents, such as expanding fee assistance programs for child care in the civilian community, and a pilot program that just began to test fee assistance for in-home child care for military families in five regions.
Kinderspot fills a need for parents whose children are attending child development centers, as well as those who need short-term child care. Parents are required to pay for weeks that their children are away — such as when the family is on leave or when the service member is away on temporary duty. Using this app, when they can sublet their child’s vacant spot, the family saves money because they won’t have to pay for the time their child is away.
Filling that spot can help many families with short-term child care needs, Miller said, including parents on a waiting list for a permanent child development center spot, parents needing temporary child care due to work or family obligations, or military parents bringing their child with them on a TDY to a base where Kinderspot is available.
The family who sublets the spot from another person pays the rate they would pay for that week based on their total family income. For example, a junior enlisted airman subletting the child care spot from a senior noncommissioned officer or officer would pay the rate based on their rank and family income, not the more expensive rate of the more senior member.
While only week-long segments are available during this testing phase, Miller said, the long-term goals might grow to include adding daily and hourly care into the app.
How it works
The Kinderspot app will be available on both Android and iOS devices when the program rolls out to a base. To offer the child’s spot, parents will indicate which CDC their child attends, and the child’s enrollment must be verified by the CDC administrator before the parent can offer the spot. As soon as an offer is made, eligible renters will be able to book it through the app. Spots can only be rented for children of the same age.
Those who have offered and rented their spots will receive a credit to their account directly from their CDC, equivalent to the amount they would have been charged for that week.
Staff members are being trained to manage the app’s web portal, officials said, and this centralized management means families won’t have to worry about paying more than they normally would for child care.
How it began
Maj. Jacque Vasta used her own experience to develop an idea that would be helpful for other military families. Several years ago, she came up with the idea after unsuccessful attempts to sublease child care spots. The spots were being subleased in an ad hoc way on social media. “I vented on Facebook and soon learned that many other families using the CDCs had the same problem,” she said, in the Air Force press release.
She pitched her idea at the 2020 AFIMSC Innovation Rodeo, and earned first place and $333,000 for the app. The project then secured an extra $1 million for development through a price-matching Small Business Innovation Research contract, officials said. The AFIMSC Ventures innovation office partnered with Oddball, a digital services team, and worked closely with the Air Force Services Center to shape the app. They conducted interviews, and requested feedback from service members — receiving more than 500 responses within a few weeks.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.