By Ms. Rachel E Parks (IMCOM)August 3, 2009
CHIAfE+VRES, Belgium Aca,!" Military family members of deployed servicemembers or Warriors in Transition occasionally need a break, especially if they have children they are looking after. The Respite Child Care program helps fill that need. The program has become a life-line Army wide and is gaining momentum in the U.S. Army Garrison Benelux and SHAPE communities as well.
Respite Child Care is a Child, Youth and School Services program, but Army Community Services also takes a major role within the community. The program allows children of a deployed servicemember or a Warrior in Transition 16 free hours of child care, per child, each month.
ACS Director Vicki Hamlin said the local respite child care program has already seen some great success.
"We had a Warrior in Transition a few months ago sent to the US quickly, leaving his wife to outprocess. She had two young children and CYS was able to provide respite child care while she took care of clearing. It worked perfectly and that family appreciated the support," said Hamlin.
CYS Director John Orme agreed with Hamlin about the success of the program. "It's going very well here. I can't think of an instance where CYS or ACS has not been able to help a family," he said.
Orme noted that there are not a large number of deployed servicemembers or Warriors in Transition within the Benelux area, but there are some and he hopes they take advantage of the program if needed.
Orme said the majority of people using respite child care have elementary school aged children or very young children. "The parents are very receptive to the program," he said.
Hamlin said that the service is also open to families with older children but so far there hasn't been much need for that locally.
"This whole program is really a holistic approach; it's not just a voucher and telling someone good luck. We want to reach out and help the people who come to us, but not suffocate them," said Hamlin. She said when people visit ACS to learn more about the respite program, it's often possible to find other resources within the community that they may not even know about.
Within the Benelux, the program has also been used by member of the Family Advocacy Program for temporary short-term childcare.
"We estimate that we've spent about $3000 this year for respite child care. That works out to about 500 or 600 hours of care. For a small community that's very impressive," said Hamlin.
The respite care option is also open to families that are part of the Exceptional Family Member Program but there has been a limited use in the past two years. However, Hamlin said it's good that families know the option is there.
Orme said the most important thing that people should know about the program is that it provides the occasional necessary break for families already coping with an increased level of stress. "The program is here, it's working well and we're taking full advantage of it," he said.
If you would like more information about the respite care program and eligibility criteria for respite care, you can contact ACS or CYS.