FORT MEADE, Md. -- Taking care of Army Reserve youth is a priority for the 200th Military Police Command leadership before, during and after a mobilization or deployment.
Meghan Norris, a youth services specialist for the 200th MPCOM, spent several days at a recent Yellow Ribbon Program event for two military police companies scheduled to deploy overseas this summer.
"Family is a big word for the Army Reserve," she said. "It's just not about the Soldier and spouse but a whole lot more people. We have children, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles and friends that represent our 200th MPCOM family."
Taking care of that family is a big deal for Brig. Gen. Phillip Churn, the commanding general of the largest military police force in the Army with more than 14,000 Soldiers living in 44 states.
"My number one focus is our ensuring our families have the resources to succeed throughout the deployment cycle," Churn said. "We must take a serious look at how we integrate our military youth into Yellow Ribbon Programs and the Family Readiness Groups. Anything less than 100 percent effort would be a failure within the leadership at all levels in this command."
Norris said one of the biggest issues for the military family during the deployment cycle is childcare. From child subsidies, tutoring to providing resources to local schools about military resources available to both the youth and educators, Norris said all the information is a phone call or mouse click away.
"The first step is to ask," she said. "Many times, parents just don't know how many programs are out there to support them. 4-H, Operation Military Kids and MilitaryOneSource are just three resources out of dozens that have programs for our military children."
Norris said Yellow Ribbon events are designed to arm parents with the information to succeed as a family.
"We have Family Life Consultants at these events for the Soldiers and their families," she said. "They are here to help, guide and provide an ear to listen to the concerns and issues of our families."
Communication is the pillar of success for the Army Reserve family, Norris said.
"As parents sit through briefings and discussions at Yellow Ribbon events, they must communicate that information to their children in a way they understand what is going on," she said. "Many of these families are going from a two-parent household to having one parent having to do the work of two. Their children need to understand there is going to be change in their lives."
One of the best and basic support mechanisms for Army Reserve families is the Family Readiness Group, she said.
"FRGs are not for just for the spouse left behind to meet," she said. "Families must include their children when participating in FRG activities. While there, the children will be able to talk with others who are going through the same exact situation. You will see they will open up to others and discuss their feelings in a safe, secured environment."
Norris said FRGs should not go through the deployment alone. The Army Reserve has resources dedicated to assisting the families during this difficult time, she added.
"Our youth is our future," she said. "We need to ensure they have the same care and concerns as our Soldiers and spouses. On the outside, our military children may seem capable of handling the deployment, but on the inside there could be hatred, hurt or mistrust."
During FRG meetings, Norris encourages unit leadership to reach out and find the resources to help the youngest members of the 200th MPCOM family.
"We are one phone call away from provide assistance and ensuring the right people are attending the FRG meetings," she said.
Family Life Counselors and other professionals are also available to the Army Reserve family.
"We don't stop caring when these families leave our Yellow Ribbon events," she said. "We are here 365 days a year to answer the call when a family is in need. "
Norris said summer camps and other recreational activities are important for both the parent and child.
"We understand that sometimes that parent left behind need a break because they have been filling both parent roles for a year," she said. "We can help our families find those activities that will place Reserve children in a positive environment for them to grow and learn."
For more information about the Army Reserve Child, Youth and School Services, visit the web at http://www.arfp.org/cyss or call (301) 677-1494/1579/1578.