FORT RUCKER, Ala. -- Becoming a parent for the first time can be an intimidating prospect for many people, but the Army Community Service New Parent Support Program on post stands at the ready to lend a helping hand.
That helping hand can provide information, classes, networking opportunities with people in the same boat, baby bundles for clients in the program, and a staff ready to listen to any concerns and who cares, Joy McCormick, NPSP home visitor and licensed social worker.
“We have a great program,” she said, adding that the program is designed to help expecting parents from pregnancy all the way up to children turning 3. “We laugh all the time because my children are adults, and I start looking at it and I think, boy, I did everything wrong – it’s amazing my babies are still alive.”
She said one of the top draws of the program is the support of having “somebody to talk to that doesn’t think you’re crazy when you start asking questions. We are parents, we’ve done that – we’re willing to listen to what’s going with new parents and try to understand the situation they’re in. We will also be there to provide them someone to talk to. Sometimes you don’t even know what to ask, but it’s nice to have someone listen to you, and let you talk and laugh about what’s going on.”
And sometimes it’s a pat on the back that makes a huge impact, McCormick added. “A lot of time it’s that reassurance that you are a good parent and doing a great job, because they don’t get told that enough – you’re a great mom or you’re a great dad! I think they need to hear that sometimes – being a parent is a very tough job.”
Command Sgt. Maj. Raymond P. Quitugua Jr., Fort Rucker garrison command sergeant major, agreed, and added that being an effective parent is also part of the total Soldier concept.
“This is where the new parent support program comes into play – it covers everything from prenatal classes to parenting basics,” he said. “The Army can teach Soldiers many things. We can train them on land navigation, how to breach an obstacle, fire their assigned weapons, employ hand grenades and so on. We also recognize that those are just a few aspects of what makes a good Soldier.
“It may not be a drill sergeant doing the instructing, but our team of nurses, social workers and amazing family advocacy staff are just as dedicated,” Quitugua added. “Soldiers everywhere should take advantage of this outstanding program because I believe becoming a good parent will make you an even better Soldier.”
The informational side of the program includes just about everything new moms and dads need to know, McCormick said. The program provides numerous reading materials, follows a tailorable curriculum developed by Florida State University that has been adopted by numerous bases throughout the U.S., and offers referrals and information to off-post programs that help new parents and young children.
The program also regularly offers classes, now done virtually but resuming face-to-face instruction in August, in proper installation and use of car safety seats, infant massage, baby sign language, learning through music and nutrition, she said. “It’s a wide gamut that covers pretty much everything that impacts a child from birth to age 3. And outside agencies, such as Lyster Army Health Clinic, Parent to Parent and the Military Child Coalition also partner with us.”
She added that the program’s playgroups for children and parents were put on hold during the pandemic, but will resume in August.
Mom and Me, Dad, Too for parents of children from birth to 16 months will take place Mondays from 9-11:30 a.m. at The Commons on Seventh Avenue. Tot Time will take place Wednesdays from 9-11:30 a.m. at The Commons. People wanting to attend need to make a reservation by calling 255-3359.
NPSP also includes home visits every two weeks in its services for on- or off-post residents, which are designed to help new parents and provide support, according to McCormick.
“We like to go into home to make sure it is safe, if the environment set up in a safe manner, if the baby is sleeping in crib correctly and there aren’t things in the crib that aren’t supposed to be there for safe sleeping,” she said. “We want to see the children in their environment, how they are reacting, how they are doing, how things are going, and then talk and see what is going on with the family.
“We can then follow up, and provide educational sheets and explain what things mean and if this is normal development,” McCormick said, adding the staff is flexible with the timing of the visits.
The program also provides baby bundles for clients enrolled in the program McCormick said. These include various baby items, and also for other stages of development, as well, such as a tummy time pillow for infants at 2 months to help strengthen head and neck muscles, books to help develop language and cognitive development, items to help with teething and more.
And people can take the program with them if they PCS – the program is transferable to most installations within the Army, so parents don’t have to worry about whether they will be supported if they move, McCormick added.
To find out more about the NPSP, visit the office in Bldg. 5700, Rm. 371G or call 255-3359.