Children and Deployment: Caring For the Army's Smallest Members
November 4, 2011
"What we have seen across the Army since 9/11 and especially since 2003, when this country began fighting two wars at one time, is an increase in transition disorders in children and an increase in behavior issues with children," said Jodie Smith, the outreach services director at Child, Youth and School Services on Fort Hood, Texas.
Smith explained that military children are being diagnosed with transitional and behavioral disorders at younger and younger ages because they have had to face many challenges, namely the challenge of deploying parents.
Smith and her coworkers have a strong desire to see military children grow and develop beyond these challenges, she said, and still become successful, strong adults.
That's why she wants military families on Fort Hood to know that CYSS, in partnership with Army Family Covenant and School of Knowledge, Inspiration, Exploration and Skills (SKIES) Unlimited, have many resources available to help children stay engaged while their parents are deployed, as well as help families transition from pre-deployment to post-deployment as smooth as possible.
"Family members who seek support from CYSS through a deployment, once deployment orders are provided to our offices, then each child in that household qualifies for $300 of SKIESUnlimited classes through the length of the deployment and $100 in team sports registrations through the length of the deployment," Smith said. "Each child also qualifies for 16 hours of free monthly day care. Beyond those 16 hours of monthly day care, parents would only be charged $2 an hour for hourly care as opposed to $4 an hour."
Smith said the $300 of SKIESUnlimited benefits and the $100 for sports registrations can go a long way. Children can participate in classes through SKIESUnlimited, which is an extracurricular activity program, for six months without any out-of-pocket expenses and $100 in sports registrations can get a child through two and a half seasons of sports.
Smith also explained that if spouses of deployed Soldiers are employed or are full-time students they also qualify for 20% off of full-time childcare fees.
"This often allows family members to save a considerable amount of money during a deployment," Smith said. "A family of four can see a savings upward of $3000, if they use all of their benefits."
However, these benefits are not only in place to help families monetarily.
"It's not just a financial benefit," said Sky Clarke, SKIESUnlimited Director, for Fort Hood. "But it also helps get kids involved and stay busy during that time of deployment."
This way, Smith explained, children have something to look forward to every week while they are dealing with the stress of having a deployed parent.
There are other services that support children and families of deployed Soldiers throughout the year, as well, explained Regina Martinez, deployment cycle support specialist, Fort Hood CYSS.
Martinez said that CYSS partners with the mobilization and deployment branch of Army Community Service, which conducts a mock deployment for children twice a year.
"The idea behind this is to have the children go through a mock deployment to see exactly what it is mom and dad go through when they get ready to leave," Martinez said. "It decreases their fears and anxieties related to deployment when they have a little bit of knowledge of what is going to happen."
Camp C.O.P.E. is another outlet provided to military families, Martinez said. Camp C.O.P.E. is a non-profit organization that travels from place to place and sets up day camps where children of soldiers can go learn how to deal with deployments, reunions, changing stations, trouble in school and other fundamental coping skills, Martinez said.
When families move to another military base, they do not have to leave the assistance behind, either.
"CYSS provides consistent stability from post to post," said Clarke. "The programs are exactly the same and, in many cases, the child development centers are set up exactly the same."
Since many of these programs started on Fort Hood, Smith said she has seen families become more and more proactive when preparing for a deployment in order to head off problems before they even begin.
Martinez agrees with Smith.
"I think that it has empowered families," Martinez said. "Because with all of these resources and services now available, parents have more knowledge to be able to support their kids through difficult times."
Smith said that while she has no documents proving the success of these programs, she has another, very personal way of measuring their success, and they are, in fact, succeeding.
"What we see is a very personal success of happy children and parents who are coping," Smith said. "That's all we can really ask of our military families -- to continue to look for sources of strength and joy. I think they can find that here."