By Cheryl RodewigMarch 6, 2009
Young military families dealing with repeated deployments will have a new resource they can count on, said Tawanna Brown, the post school liaison officer.
That resource is the Parents as Teachers program. Through this initiative, families with children ages 3 and younger can choose to receive regular visits from certified parent educators who will provide age-appropriate information and experience on child rearing.
"For a young family, new to the military, first time away from home, I see this as a great network," Brown said. "It can be overwhelming having a newborn or toddler while your spouse is deployed. Having the parent educator there, it's not something they're going through by themselves."
The educators will offer classes based on the families' needs and requests.
"It could be toilet training, social skills, a variety of challenges the family may be facing," Brown said.
Parents to Teachers will also include play groups for children and meetings for parents to encourage building relationships and sharing information.
Already in place as a pilot initiative at seven other installations, the program came about after research showed families with young children are the most affected by repeat deployments, said Brown, who will head to St. Louis March 22 for a weeklong course about Parent to Teachers.
"I'm in and out of homes, and I know it can be challenging (for parents)," said Mary Shipp, a training and curriculum specialist with post Family Child Care. "I commend them for the job they do. Children don't come with instructions. This program will be another support system for parents ... another avenue of information to make sure their children are having their developmental needs met."
Shipp will attend the course along with two other parents from Fort Benning who will be certified as parent educators. She will work closely with the parent educators to make sure families are getting the care they need.
Supporting families is an important part of supporting Soldiers, she said.
"The Soldier can't really do his job to the best of his ability unless he knows his family is taken care of," Shipp said. "This is one way we can relieve Soldiers' minds: to know there are people available to give support and encouragement to their families, so they are better able to complete their mission."
For more information about Parents to Teachers, call Brown at 706-545-3062 or visit www.parentsasteachers.org and click on the Heroes at Home link.