New program seeks childcare providers to assist military families 

Child care providers are needed for a new Department of Defense initiative designed to expand options for full-time military staff and active-duty service families while reducing their child care expenses. 

Military Child Care in Your Neighborhood-PLUS, known as MCCYN-PLUS, has been introduced in more than a dozen states. It is a fee assistance program that offers service members state-rated child care providers when military on-installation care is not available. The program can save military families up to $1,800 per month per child. It is funded and operated by the DOD, which will pay benefits directly to qualifying licensed child care providers who can earn up to $2,000 in a weekend. 

In the three months since it was unveiled in Minnesota, in January, 2024, MCCYN-PLUS has helped service members, like Army Sgt. 1st Class Amanda Kasten, who serves with the Minnesota National Guard’s Arden Hills-based 34th Red Bull Infantry Division. Kasten hopes more providers will consider being part of the program, especially those who can provide care over drill weekends. 

“We lose Soldiers due to lack of child care on drill weekends. These Soldiers are willing to sign up and help our country; let’s help them for the greater good,” said Kasten. “The relationship you can build with a Soldier is like having another member of your family willing and available to help you as well. Your willingness to help us with our kids means we are willing to help you too.” 

After going through the eligibility and application process with the help of the Minnesota National Guard’s Family Programs team, Kasten, a single mom, was pleased to find a provider near her home and drill location who was a good fit for her family’s needs. In the past, obtaining child care for her daughter, Scarlett, during monthly weekend drills was difficult. Family members did their best to help. 

“But they started to be burnt-out with the drive and planning for monthly care,” said Kasten. “So, I reached out to my weekday child care center and hired someone from there. When she moved, I again reached out to the child care center and hired another caregiver. Later, I was able to combine care with friends and the current caregiver. Hiring a caregiver for drill weekends helped prevent my family from burning out and I reserve family for more emergency situations, such as state active-duty missions, child care plans falling through, and extended military trainings.” 

Being part of MCCYN-PLUS has been a positive experience for Kasten and Scarlett. 

“She loved her experience during our March drill weekend and wanted to go back,” said Kasten. “It helps to know my child is with an experienced provider. She has other friends her age to play with and interact with, and she is provided experiences outside of our normal routine. It’s a relief to know I have affordable and reliable child care on drill weekends. Financially, it is a significant help as well.” 

Malynda Zuleger of Backyard Adventures Daycare in Spring Lake is glad to be able to serve as the Kastens’ provider on drill weekends. 

“When I heard Amanda was looking for care for her six-year-old daughter, I thought that could be fun for my own six-year-old,” said Zulegar. “After we met and the girls hit it off, I knew it would work out. It’s a great program for the Soldiers and I’m happy we could help out a family in need. We have enjoyed building a community family over the years and I’m happy that my daughter has a new friend. We hope over time Amanda and her daughter will feel like part of that family as well.” 

Zuleger encourages other child care providers to be part of MCCYN-PLUS. 

“I think it’s important for them to know they still get to interview and make the decision on whether a family will be a good fit, ss well as that they don’t need to commit to every weekend,” Zuleger said. “Also, it’s not necessarily going to be a full 12 hours each day that care is needed.” 

Minnesota’s WayFinder website lists steps to becoming a licensed provider, to include opportunities for one-on-one mentorship. Providers can also earn certifications. In many instances, these additional certifications are at no cost to the participant with the help of grants and certification programs. More information is available at the Child Care Wayfinder website at

Cristina Oxtra 
Minnesota National Guard Public Affairs