FORT BRAGG, N.C. - Life within a Family can be stressful. Multiple deployments and children who can't understand where mom or dad went can add to the everyday stresses. For military Families, these stressors can interfere with simple day-to-day activities or duties.

The Child and Youth Behavioral Program is a component of the Military and Family Life Consultant Program, a Department of Defense pro-active initiative to support military Families. According to the U.S. Army website, "through the MFLC Program, licensed clinical providers assist servicemembers and their Families with issues they may face through the cycle of deployment - from leaving their loved ones and possibly living and working in harm's way, to reintegrating with their community and Family."

"The concern (of multiple deployments effect) was to be pro-active with this program," said Patty Turner, chief of Youth and School-aged Services. "I don't think anyone at this point can tell you what the long term effects of war are going to be on the children of Soldiers; with the constant separation and the stress of the fact that their parent is in a war zone. This was a response at the DoD level to ensure that the resources are in place and available for military Families."

The consultants' roles are unique to the program inasmuch as they aren't working as traditional therapists. They are licensed as behavioral health care practitioners and are used as a resource to Families. They assist servicemembers and/or their Families develop an action plan to address the problem, according to a Military Health Net summary of the program.

"It gives (parents) someone to talk to without the formality of going to a traditional professional and have a sit down with them," said Turner. "MFLC's carry their phones with them at all times, so parents can get advice and the support they need whenever needed.

"It's stressful to deal with a child that you may not know why they are acting the way they are," said Turner. "Especially when the separation happens in the early stages of childhood. It's hard for (children) to express their feelings and sometimes they act out in anger."

Not only are the consultants available for parents, but they are also available for military child care providers. The program helps the providers in child development centers and schools by giving them the proper training to better deal with the effects of children separated from their parents.

"This is to help the child be successful," said Turner. "There is a component to help and train the staff at CDCs and are embedded into the schools and CYSS programs to assist the staff. And then there's the component that also helps with the parents who are struggling through deployments.

"The program is strictly volunteer and there's no records kept - it's purely confidential," explained Turner. "They don't diagnose anyone, they assist the staff and are a resource to parents.

"If a Family member is struggling and there are behavioral issues, whether at school, day care, or at home, that Family life consultant is there and available to speak with the parent while providing strategies to deal (with the problem). They also provide outside resources that will better support the Family," said Turner.

The consultants are assigned to certain centers and are embedded with the children while engaging and building relationships with children. They provide an ear to listen to the issues and struggles military children sometimes go through. The consultants also make sure the caregivers are in the right frame of mind if they are also going through a deployment with an absent spouse.
"Everyone has a bad day," said Turner. "But the consultants are available for the caregivers to provide support to them and teach them calming techniques for those certain days.

"Having the MFLC gives us an opportunity to train our staff so they feel more confident in dealing with their situation and also reassure the staff during stressful situations so they are in the right mental status to deal with the child," explained Turner.

"This isn't a unique program to Fort Bragg," she said. "This is a pro-active program to battle the everyday stresses that military Families all over the country and overseas go through."

Military Family life consultants work closely with Army Community Service, and will make referrals on a case-by-case basis. The benefits of having the MFLC program are to provide informal, easy to access information, be present at times and locations where Soldiers are and conduct individual or group coaching and training sessions that address particular needs like meeting your baby for the first time, single Soldier reunions, or parenting after deployment and many other issues dealing with being a part of the military.

According to the ACS web site, the first MFLCs arrived at Fort Bragg May 25, 2005. "They were hosted by the former COSCOM units (returning from a year deployment). Commanders welcomed military Family life consultants at their areas and chaplains worked closely with them ensuring that all servicemembers had an opportunity to share their experiences."

"We are really thankful that we have this program because there have been situations where we've had staff members say that the issues they are experiencing are beyond their capability and the MFLCs have been there to assist," said Turner.

"They've been able to give us good training that allows the staff to learn a little bit more about dealing with the difficult situations they encounter. We are here to serve and need to be able to recognize that the parent is in a very, very stressful situation. How we deal with them is very critical to making them feel that we are here in a warm and inviting environment as a resource for them."

To request a MFLC for a unit event, call ACS at 432-3742. To speak directly to a MFLC, call 995-2950, 988-8784, 709-3973, or 709-3960. You can also find more information on the MFLC Program and other programs of support on www.fortbraggmwr.com, under the ACS tab.

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16