Duty Station: Joint Base San Antonio
Number of Deployments: 0
Number of PCS's: 3
Share your military spouse story:
I had been a MilSpouse for only a few years before I was truly thrown into the full life. Our first overseas stationing was in Italy in 2016, and what a culture shock it was. Not due to the locals or the climate, but rather, the branding of support for Military Families did not match our reality. Italy has one of the strictest Status of Forces Agreements in Europe, and I quickly realized that my chances of finding meaningful employment had dropped to about 25% with this relocation. While researching available positions and employment opportunities that would not cost me my base access in a foreign country, I found very little. There was a massive presence of free labor through volunteering but little paid work. I eventually found a position that required a Master's degree and paid $11 an hour, which I eagerly accepted. We had yet to have children of our own, but I noticed those working had either no children at all or their children were school-aged. I was concerned that my slim chances of finding meaningful employment would disappear once I needed child care. After having my first son about a year later, it was confirmed. I was no longer employable due to a lack of childcare; I spent more time with other young families socializing and providing resources as a form of volunteering. The consensus was that a lack of childcare was the primary reason for their stressors. These family members came overseas with car payments for cars that were now sitting stateside, student loan debt for degrees they could no longer use, and career plans that, for the time being, were effectively halted. They came with financial security that was quickly being spent away. With each relocation, I realized this was not exclusive to overseas. I had spent a few years in graduate school working as a nanny for a dual military family; it did not hit me until I was part of a Military Family that once childcare is needed, significant sacrifices must be made.
Share an example of your leadership experience within the military community:
With little ability to work, I decided to focus on advocating for child care. I pleaded for transparency, updates, and progress at the Garrison level. I sent letters and scheduled meetings. Due to the frequent turnover of commanders and civilian entities, it was an uphill battle that I lost before I began. Our next relocation was to the National Capital Region; I found myself in the same situation that all Military Families with young children find themselves in, hunting for childcare. I became a Work and Family Life Consultant and made my day-to-day about helping Military Families access child care. Within this role, I streamlined the process for families and gave realistic expectations so they could plan accordingly. As I was making progress, we received orders to relocate. In the next relocation to San Antonio, I made my passion a business and founded Operation Child Care. I work to close the child care gap many families face with each PCS.
Describe your involvement in the military community:
I didn’t grow up around the military; my first “step in” was needing an ID to bring my spouse lunch when he was working at the hospital. My background in advocacy made the too-common situation I faced in Italy one I was confident I could tackle. I have volunteered through many Military Family Readiness programs over the last decade. When my time was occupied by civilian employment, I would use my evenings to assist families in navigating child care through social media pages. When I worked on base as a Work and Family Life Consultant and shortly after as the 1st Brigade SHARP Victim Advocate, I ensured that every person seeking my help had realistic expectations. I created, attended, and published any reliable resource I could find. My involvement with the community centers around ensuring that families know their options without feeling ashamed to ask for help.
Describe how you support your community:
My support looks a bit different than some others. I seek opportunities to help in a way that heals. I acknowledge the struggles, validate the experiences, and if they do not have any resolutions available to them, assure them it isn't a moral failing. Too frequently, we are uncomfortable not having a solution to military life's struggles. We quickly ask anyone in despair if they have heard of XYZ. While there are valid resources available, many situations do not have an easy solution, and it is essential to be realistic. If a family says they are in crushing debt and need safe low-cost child care, there are many resources available. The issue with most of those resources is their accessibility and timelines. I see a mental shift when I acknowledge that it isn’t a good situation, offer options, and plan with those expectations. Families shouldn't feel like they aren't trying hard enough.
What do you advocate for? Why?
Access to affordable, quality child care affects everyone, one of the more obvious outcomes of the COVID pandemic. Without access to care, the front-line workers were and still are unable to do their jobs. Teachers are unable to teach, and customer service comes to a halt. Whether you have children or not, you will feel the effects. No one knows this like the military community. Child care is the core of most, if not all, issues that these families face. A trickle-down effect occurs, leading to food insecurity and even homelessness. I have seen many programs that treat the symptoms, such as military spouse unemployment and food pantries, but it is time to acknowledge the core issue.
How have you spread the message of your platform/advocacy?
Through the creation of Operation Child Care, I have had a much larger opportunity to spread the message that supporting our troops means supporting their families. I have connected with fellow advocates at many leading military support organizations like MFAN, MOAA, NMFA, ASYMCA, Partners in Promise, Blue Star Families, and many Veteran Service Organizations. Through these connections, I can reach families and attend and educate them about legislative change. I have garnered attention thanks to a few articles written about my program. Mission readiness depends on family readiness. I have a saying; no one wants to tell you about their lack of child care more than someone who lacks child care. I use these stories and build solutions from the ground up. The community recognizes the importance of child care to the success of the military family and freely offers our resources to others.
What do you hope to accomplish with the AFI Military Spouse of the Year®
I hope that I am able to bring some comfort and hope to the struggling families I encounter on a daily basis. Comfort in knowing that they are not alone, this is a common struggle, and it is not their fault if they cannot make a single income cover an entire family. Hope in acknowledging that their issues are not insurmountable, it is through the voices of the many that we can and are making a difference.
Kayla is a fierce military family advocate dedicated to affordable childcare for all servicemembers and their families. As a successful entrepreneur and military spouse, Kayla has seen firsthand the impact that access to affordable childcare has on the well-being of military families, and is leading the way for actionable change in the DoD. We would be lucky to welcome her into the MSOY family, as she has already joined hands with many of the subject matter experts and advocates in this community already.
- by Heather Campbell
I would love to nominate Kayla Corbitt for military spouse of the year. Kayla is the founder of Operation Childcare which is helping to solve the childcare crisis for military families. Not only is she tirelessly advocating for military families, she also advocates and helps advance military spouse entrepreneurs. She openes her network, time and resources consistently to help advance military family readiness. She would be a wonderful addition to the MSOY family.
- by Richelle Futch