FORT DRUM, N.Y. (April 18, 2019) -- Sometimes parents need assistance, but they aren't sure who to ask or how to ask for it.

That's why, for the past seven years, the Fort Drum Family Advocacy Program has hosted Baby Palooza for its military families.

"As a military spouse, each time we arrive at our next duty station we start all over - we don't know anybody, we have no extended family, and so it takes time," said Hiba Flayyih, a FAP family development educator. "So, Baby Palooza is about introducing all the local resources to new families here."

More than 200 Fort Drum families attended the event April 16 at the Commons, with representatives from more than 45 organizations providing information, giveaways, demonstrations and mini-workshops.

Flayyih said that services provided by the Family Advocacy Program include troop training, command briefing, and victim advocacy for domestic violence or child abuse cases. She said that staff also regularly conduct outreach at the Post Exchange and child development centers.

"Our program is all about strengthening families," she said. "So many people don't know what FAP does, so outreach is important to us, and it works pretty well to let them know what we do."

At one booth, staff from the North Country Prenatal/Perinatal Council helped expectant fathers try on a baby belly in a "daddy is pregnant" challenge. Attendees also could visit the "Hidden Home Hazards" area and find all of the potential risks for babies, to include sharp objects, furniture with hard edges, and medication bottles.

Staff Sgt. Edward Craven and Sgt. Kimberly Williams, instructors at the Fort Drum Medical Simulation Training Center (MSTC), provided hands-on CPR demonstrations to show parents the correct way to perform this life-saving procedure. Craven said that parents often express concern about what they should do in an emergency situation while waiting for the arrival of medical personnel.

"The best thing we can tell them is to keep 911 on speaker phone, and they will provide the guidance as a trained first responder and walk you through each step that you need to do," Craven said. "It's also important to stay calm while following the instructions of the 911 operator."

Williams said that offering attendees a chance to practice CPR and airway passage clearing techniques gives them a little more knowledge and confidence if they ever had to perform it for real.

"In the military, we know that practice and planning make a huge difference to complete the mission," she said. "If you've only seen a video or visualize what you would do in an emergency situation, you may forget something. With hands-on training, it allows some muscle memory to be created, and you respond better to a situation."

While CPR can be easily taught, Williams said that the mistake people will often make is not being forceful enough when performing chest compressions. She said that there might be a fear of hurting someone, but adequate compression depth is necessary to get oxygen circulating again.

"CPR is vital to someone's survival if they lose their pulse or their heart stops beating," Williams said. "So, if you don't push hard enough, you're not saving them."

Craven said that their organization teaches combat life-saving skills on the installation to service members, and they also support all levels of military medical professionals within their state-of-the-art training facility. Additionally, the MSTC cadre leads an American Red Cross certification course in CPR/AED for all service members and Department of Defense employees.

Stacey Fry spoke to attendees about FAP's New Parent Support Program, which provides free, confidential services for expectant parents and families with children through the age of 3. Those who enroll in the parenting support and education program can also benefit from in-home visitations on a weekly or bi-weekly basis.

"That can be really important for families who only have one car or no transportation at all, not to mention the difficulty of getting out and about in the community with a young child," she said. "So, it's important that we come to them."

Fry said that visitations are conducted by registered nurses or licensed clinical social workers who are able to conduct home safety assessments to help prevent accidents or injuries to children.

"We're there to help educate and provide support," she said. "We're not going to be intrusive or come in and tell someone what they need to improve on. We're going to tell you what you're doing really well at and then provide education where we see needed."

Fry said that in-home visitations are completely voluntary, and parents can choose to meet elsewhere.

"We're very flexible that way," she said. "We definitely can accommodate office visits, and sometimes we're just putting packages together for families to pick up, because they want certain information and a little guidance but not the entire home visitation program."

Fry said that staff members can help parents learn new skills or improve upon old ones, and they serve as a reliable source for any parenting questions. They also can assist with relationship issues, to include divorce, single parenting and sibling rivalry.

"We can provide stress management, self-care education on growth and development for children up to 36 months, home safety, age-appropriate play - but really it can be about any parenting topic that they want to go over," Fry said.

The NPSP also offers regular classes for parents at ACS, such as Terrific Toddlers and Baby Basics / Newborn Safety.

Families can enroll in the NPSP program by calling (315) 772-0748 or 772-4070. To learn more, visit https://www.facebook.com/FTdrumFAP.

Representatives from the Jefferson County Sheriff's Department spoke with attendees about child passenger safety and provided free child seat checks upon request.

Spc. Shelby Perez said that she had learned some useful information online, but she wanted her 10-month-old daughter's car seat verified by an expert. Sgt. Shaun Cuddeback, administrative sergeant, examined the car seat to see if it had all the parts, labels and stickers. He also showed her how to properly secure the seat in place to minimize any movement.

With another child on the way, Perez said that she was grateful for the assistance.

"It's overwhelming, but I feel much better," she said. "I think just because I'm a mom that I needed to have that double-checked. Now I know that I can go to them when it's time to put in the infant seat."

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Department provides child safety checks by appointment by calling (315) 786-2601. People can also visit www.safekids.org to find other certified child passenger safety technicians.

Perez said that she heard about Baby Palooza from a friend during physical training that morning. She said that she learned a lot, and was happy she attended.

"Lots of information," she said. "I was able to find a dentist that accepts children under a year old with teeth. Before coming here, everywhere I called told me that they wouldn't accept her. So that helped me out greatly."

Flayyih said that for parents who were unable to attend Baby Palooza, they can stop by ACS at 1780 Restore Hope Avenue for whatever information they need. Flayyih also said that they can learn about different support programs just by attending an ACS event, like a Family Night at the Commons.

"This is just another way for us to say, 'Hey, we are here for you,'" she said.