By Eve Meinhardt, ParaglideAugust 7, 2009
FORT BRAGG, N.C. - The Army community is a Family. Soldiers help their peers prepare for promotion boards, pass a physical fitness test and survive on the battlefields. Spouses support one another during deployments and deal with the issues that arise as part of military life. Military children play together and befriend one another when they arrive in new houses and new schools every couple of years.
While the military Family is a close one, that does not mean the children are safe from the dangers of abuse and neglect. In the U.S., 905,000 children were the victims of abuse and neglect in 2006, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a service of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
Child abuse is more than just physical abuse; it includes neglect, sexual abuse, emotional abuse and abandonment.
Fort Bragg's Army Community Service offers a variety of classes and services to identify and help prevent and eliminate child abuse. The ACS classes and services help parents avoid becoming a statistic.
One of the most valuable tools offered by ACS's Family Advocacy Program is the New Parent Support Program. The program offers classes to moms and dads as well as home visitation. Tom Hill, manager, ACS FAP, said that home visitation is one of the most important tools a military Family has available.
"The home visitors are well-trained and very knowledgeable about parenting and the resources available for military Families. From child development to how to qualify for WIC and the assistance they can get from AER (Army Emergency Relief), the home visitors can answer any questions the parents have in the comfort and privacy of their own home," said Hill. "They help relieve some of the anxiety parents may feel."
Sue O'Brien, program coordinator, NPSP, said that the program is extremely helpful to both new Families and Families that are adding a new child. Each visit is different because it caters to the needs of the Family at that time.
"The program has 14 trained visitors and all of them are either registered nurses or social workers," said O'Brien. "For Families of multiples, we have a visitor who is the mother of multiples and can help them through her own personal experiences. We also have a Spanish-speaking visitor as well as visitors who are retired military or Army spouses."
The home visits focus on the five protective factors that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services linked to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect. These are: nurturing and attachment; knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development; parental resilience; social connections; and concrete supports for parents.
Hill and O'Brien encourage both parents to participate in the home visit to help open the lines of communication and enable each to learn the methods for successful parenting together.
Other benefits available through the NPSP are play-mornings that provide structured activities to help children's social, cognitive and motor skills along with a chance to play with their parent; Dads 101, a class for dads taught by dads to learn how to help mom and baby; as well as classes on infant care, parenting, caring for multiples, healthy pregnancy, infant massage and breast feeding.
Child abuse is not always at the hands of the parents. Other Family members, a single parent's boyfriend or girlfriend, a friend, or anyone that the child spends a lot of time with could be a potential abuser. Hill warns that often an informal daycare provider that the parents may use often is where a lot of potential abuse happens.
"The friend or loved one watching the child may be irritated or stressed by the additional responsibility of caring for the child while the parent is working, at school or wherever," said Hill. "A lot of bad stuff can happen as a result. Parents need to look at the situation through a different set of eyes. They may love the person watching the child, but does that person love and have patience for the child'"
Some of the warning signs a parent selecting an informal caregiver should look for are the person's stress and anger level both with the child and when they are alone and whether the person seems like they would rather be doing something else. An informal caregiver may be okay for a few hours, but the longer the time alone with the child, the more dangerous it could be.
As the Family member, neighbor, or friend of the Family of a potentially abused child, it is important to be on the look out for abuse and know what to do. If the child always looks sad, wears the same clothes all of the time, is outside alone when he or she shouldn't be, has abnormal bumps and bruises, or there are obvious signs of neglect like trash piling up; they may be victims of child abuse or neglect.
If you suspect a child is being neglected or abused, call Child Protective Services at 677-2450, the WAMC Department of Social Work at 907-7869 or the Provost Marshal Office at 396-0391.
If you're a parent who needs help or a concerned friend, neighbor, or Family member looking for a little guidance, call ACS FAP at 396-5521.
For a schedule of the classes offered by ACS, visit the Fort Bragg Family, Morale, Welfare and Recreation Web site at www.fortbraggmwr.com.