Staff members of the Fort Lee Family Advocacy Program set up signage and their annual pinwheel garden display by the front entrance of the Army Community Service facility to mark the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month on April 1. Pictured from left are FAP Specialist LaKetia Jones and New Parent Support Program Specialists Georgette Nelson and Teresa Mitchell. (U.S. Army Photo by Patrick Buffett)
Staff members of the Fort Lee Family Advocacy Program set up signage and their annual pinwheel garden display by the front entrance of the Army Community Service facility to mark the start of Child Abuse Prevention Month on April 1. Pictured from left are FAP Specialist LaKetia Jones and New Parent Support Program Specialists Georgette Nelson and Teresa Mitchell. (U.S. Army Photo by Patrick Buffett) (Photo Credit: Patrick Buffett) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT LEE, Va. – In addition to awareness and prevention, a goal of April’s Child Abuse Prevention Month observance is to inform communities about available support services that promote healthy families.

One of them at Fort Lee is the Family Advocacy Program – an Army Community Service resource many service members know by name but aren’t always certain what it really offers.

“The family advocacy mission is to prevent child abuse and domestic violence,” said LaKetia Jones, a FAP specialist. “We do that by first educating commands, service members and their families, and DOD Civilians and contractors.”

There is more to FAP’s instructional offerings than many people think, she noted.

“We offer classes on stress and anger management, couples communication and conflict resolution,” Jones elaborated. “We also have the new parent support workshops such as ‘What to Expect Now That You’re Expecting’ and ‘Daddy Boot Camp.’”

Jones said many individuals tend to assume that participation in these courses has negative connotations – that it’s a sign of not having one’s proverbial house in order, which could have a negative impact on their career. This simply isn’t true, she insisted. What its saying is, “I want to be a better person or parent or partner.” The parenting class was used as an example.

“Whether it’s learning how to bathe your baby, how to deal with purple crying or just how to implement positive discipline with your children; those are classes we want to enforce,” Jones said. “Good parents take classes because, while there are books that will tell us what to expect (at young ages), there’s nothing covering a child doing X, Y or Z on this day at this time and this is how you’re supposed to handle it. We’re offering that broader learning experience in parenting.”

Jones further noted how positive or negative experiences of childhood can shape who youngsters become later in life – a topic often discussed in their parenting classes.

“Our children learn based on how we conduct ourselves,” she said. “If we’re constantly arguing and bickering, that is how our children are going to, more than likely, enter into their relationships later on. Conversely, if we’re teaching them how to utilize effective communication, it doesn’t just lend to the romantic relationship, it lends to their work relationships or friendships or other aspects of life.”

The intent is to set families up to have successful and healthy relationships despite whatever circumstances they may be facing.

“Coming to us for parenting advice or support could help individuals not make choices that are going to be harmful to their child or possibly put them in a negative situation of abuse, domestic violence or neglect,” Jones summarized.

Over the past year, the FAP has witnessed a steady increase in individuals seeking stress and anger management, according to Jones. That’s not surprising considering how COVID-19 has changed everyone’s lives. Parents have found themselves isolated at home, juggling their full time job and caring for virtual-learning children at the same time.

“We want Team Lee members to know that Army Community Service as a whole – the FAP program included – has so many resources that can help them, and we have great partners like the Religious Support Office, the school liaison, the Alcohol and Drug Control Office, and so many others at the ready to offer assistance.”

Another element of FAP that military families at Fort Lee should be aware of is its home-visit program, featuring New Parent Support Specialists Georgette Nelson and Teresa Mitchell. Jones said they will travel to any service member’s home within a 50-mile radius. Virtual meetings also can be arranged.

“The goal of the New Parent Support Program is to empower families with the education and resources available to them,” Jones said. “During home visits, our specialists strive to aid families by meeting with them in their environment, assess the strengths parents already possess and then enhance areas where they need additional support.

“They can recommend play activities that promote parent-child interaction,” she continued. “They might suggest educational classes or additional visits to check progress. They also can make referrals to other resources.”

Again, it all goes back to the original statement about preventing child abuse and domestic violence, according to Jones. Home visits are just one more way to promote healthy and resilient families, which the Army has deemed vital to readiness.

Jones offered a final note about in-person training resuming as COVID-19 case numbers continue to fall. In addition to the classes already mentioned that are held at the ACS facility, they offer unit training and remote participation in their instructional programs through Microsoft Teams.