Local military mom created first-ever portal to help families find childcare assistance

Award-winning founder believes childcare holds key to military spouse unemployment

SAN ANTONIO – Kayla Corbitt’s husband is in the Army and they’ve been stationed all over the world.

It was in Italy where she noticed the only working spouses around her either had no kids or the children were older.

So Corbitt educated herself in military child care and became an expert.

“My background was in nonprofit advocacy. I have my master’s in forensic psychology. I had a background in contracts from when I was in grad school,” she said.

Corbitt was highly qualified for an array of jobs, so she expected to find one quickly when she got back to the states.

By then she had the first of her two children and realized she couldn’t work because she couldn’t afford childcare.

For various reasons Corbitt did not qualify for the military’s assistance programs. For some programs, her income was above the threshold. For others, she couldn’t afford the up-front costs for the list of expensive child care centers, knowing that reimbursements took a couple months to go through.

So Corbitt became a stay-at-home mom, doing almost everything on her own.

“My husband is in an intensive program and he couldn’t even miss an afternoon. So if there was something I needed to do, if there was a doctor’s appointment, I had to take two children with me to do it. There are lots of times I have to pick my 5-year-old up early from school. He just had to miss some school because there’s no one else who can go on base to pick him up at that time,” she said.

Corbitt quickly saw her problem was far from unique.

“It does not matter how many organizations create job fairs. If we don’t have child care, how will we get to that job fair?” she asked.

Corbitt believes child care assistance holds the answer to the military spouse employment problem.

“We’re overeducated, we’re underemployed and we have teetered between 20 to 24% unemployment rate for the last two decades. The last decade, we have seen millions of dollars poured into military spouse employment initiatives, scholarships, trainings, fellowships, whatever it might be. We’re not seeing that needle move at all, and that’s because we have to look at what the core issue is,” she said.

There are a series of child care reimbursement programs, but they all have different thresholds and qualifications families need to meet, but her research showed it was taking families an average of four months to sift through all of that and apply.

That’s why she started Operation Childcare Project, creating a database of military child care options that drops the research from four months to four seconds.

“It was and still is still currently the only military child care search portal that includes your on-base and off-base options, as well as your subsidy eligibility, and how likely you are to actually access those,” Corbitt explained.

She became a case manager, helping families through that process.

“We vet those resources so that we’re not sending them another PDF of things that they’re never going to get access to,” she said.

If a family doesn’t qualify, Corbitt finds a local community partner.

“We recently found out about Respite SA, which is here in San Antonio, and they have so many openings and they can meet those complex medical needs that our families have. Our families just are not aware that that exists,” she said.

The program is attracting a lot of attention to say the least.

Corbitt turned to the wall in her home office, where there are three giant checks pinned. They are all grant awards she’s received for winning military entrepreneur competitions.

The most recent win was a $65,000 grant from the Second Service Foundation. She touted her organization in a series of pitch sessions. The last one was to over 100 people, where judges and the audience of her peers voted her first place.

$50,000 of that first-place award goes to legal help to deal with imposter scammers trying steal money from families.

The other $15,000 will go towards their case management system.

Corbitt has other military spouses sitting on the organization board and working on other important aspects of the organization. She has other volunteer case managers that she will now be able to pay because of that award.

The two other awards on the wall landed her another $21,000 to help her keep supporting hundreds of clients, especially in San Antonio, a known child care desert.

“We don’t turn people away. So I have clients from Washington to California, D.C., along the coast,” she said.

Corbitt’s client base is growing so she is looking for funding, community partners and volunteers for things like tech and copywriting.

If you’re a family needing help, there is a intake form on the organization’s website. You can also email Corbitt at support@occproject.org.

If you’re a local business wanting to help, or a possible volunteer, email them as well.

About the Authors

Courtney Friedman anchors KSAT’s weekend evening shows and reports during the week. Her ongoing Loving in Fear series confronts Bexar County’s domestic violence epidemic. She joined KSAT in 2014 and is proud to call the SA and South Texas community home. She came to San Antonio from KYTX CBS 19 in Tyler, where she also anchored & reported.

Adam Barraza is a photojournalist at KSAT 12 and an El Paso native. He interned at KVIA, the local ABC affiliate, while still in high school. He then moved to San Antonio and, after earning a degree from San Antonio College and the University of the Incarnate Word, started working in news. He’s also a diehard Dodgers fan and an avid sneakerhead.

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