CAMP ZAMA, Japan (Aug. 30, 2019) -- U.S. Army Garrisons Japan and Okinawa need members of the community who would like to provide stable, loving homes to children through the Emergency Placement Care program.

"Making a difference in a child's life can really make a difference in your own heart," said Stan Austin, manager of the Family Advocacy Program at Camp Zama's Army Community Service.

The program provides safe and temporary homes for children who are in an unsafe situation at home or have parents who cannot take care of them due to an emergency situation. Austin and Joe Scriven, director of ACS at USAG Okinawa, said both garrisons have a need for providers and they encourage those interested to contact them.

The provider program is open to Department of Defense identification-card holders who have a desire to help children in need, Austin said.

Providers must complete a background check, a home study and training, Austin said.

The background checks are rigorous and include a Child Care National Agency Checks and Inquiries background check for everyone in the home over the age of 13, Austin said.

Since the approval process can take time, Austin said ideal candidates are those who have recently arrived at their host garrison and will be there for a few years.

In addition, those who run the program hope to find enough providers so children can stay with someone from the service member's unit.

Amy Trotto, a FAP specialist at USAG Japan's ACS, said units should be like families, and it would be great if children in the program could stay with people they know.

"I always look at it from the perspective that while it benefits the child and it benefits the adult, you're working with your team, so if you have a representative in your unit, you're supporting your teammate," Trotto said.

Austin said that while the primary reason to become a provider is to help children in difficult situations, providers receive a small amount of money and reimbursement of expenses, and the background checks and training can help with employment or an adoption.

While Army EPC programs are similar to foster care in some ways, the maximum amount of time children can stay with a provider family is 90 days, and usually the stays are much shorter, Austin said.

The placements are just long enough so the family of origin can resolve existing issues or set up a more permanent living situation in the United States, Austin said.

Scriven, who served as an EPC provider for nearly two years with his wife Tara, said they found the experience rewarding because both the children whom they cared for and their parents were thankful.

One child, for example, formed a trusting bond with Scriven, and a parent later contacted him and his wife to thank them for helping her during a really hard time, Scriven said.

In addition, Scriven and his wife were in the process of adopting, and because the government paid for the training classes, they didn't have to pay for some of the classes required for adoption, Scriven said.

Austin said USAG Japan needs providers at installations throughout Japan, not just Camp Zama, so he encourages those stationed at other installations to contact him if they would like to help.

"We want to make sure that we have the necessary support systems in place to take care of any family members of Soldiers who may need this service," Austin said.

For more information, call USAG Japan ACS at DSN (315) 263-4357 or DSN (315) 263-4782, or locally at 046-407-4357 or 046-407-4782. Contact USAG Okinawa ACS at DSN (315) 644-4357, or locally at 098-962-4357.