By Julia LeDoux, Pentagram Staff WriterMarch 4, 2014
ARLINGTON, Va. - First-time and seasoned parents who are raising their children while serving the country face a myriad of challenges as they juggle the demands of their family and professional lives. Being geographically separated from extended family, frequent moves and deployments can all place added stress on the military families.
That's where the New Parent Support Program can help expectant parents and those who already have children, develop the skills they need to provide a nurturing environment for their little ones.
On Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, licensed clinical social workers Mary Cargill and Pam Hirsch work together in the program to enhance parent and infant bonding increase knowledge of child development, and provide connections to support services that allow parents to become nurturing and capable caregivers.
"It supplies support for our military families," Cargill said of the NPSP. "A lot of times, they are separated from their family by distance. They don't have friends in the community because they may be new to the installation, so we can fill a void."
Cargill said the best way to describe the program is that it teaches participants things their moms would teach them about being a parent.
The program's services are free to active duty servicemembers and their families who are expecting their first child or have at least one child under 3-years-old (5-years-old for Navy and Marine Corps families) in their homes.
"We try to help parents have realistic expectations of where their children are and what they can do so they're not getting so frustrated with them," said Cargill.
Cargill and Hirsch said one of the hidden gems of the program is its home visit program, which provides private, in-home support for new parents. Cargill and Hirsch visit clients in their homes, or anywhere else they'd like to meet, throughout the National Capital Region.
Hirsch said new parents often feel more comfortable discussing their concerns about issues such as post partum depression, breastfeeding and baby and child care in their own homes.
"We provide a variety of support; whatever the client needs," she said. "We're here to support and educate."
"We do developmental screenings in the home and can determine if the baby requires further assessment," added Cargill.
Hirsch and Cargill stressed that the home visit program, like all aspects of new parent support, is completely voluntary and is open to all eligible servicemembers, regardless of rank.
"We are not just for your lower enlisted," said Cargill. "We serve the entire military community."
The program also provides hospital visits for parents who have just had a child; referrals to other services offered through the military health care system, the installation or community; prenatal and parenting classes such as baby bundles and baby stages.
"I want families to be stronger. That's the fiber of our nation, our families," said Cargill, whose husband is a retired Marine and children are currently serving in various branches of the armed services.
For more information on the New Parent Support Program at JBM-HH, call 703-696-6368/3510.