CAMP ZAMA, Japan – The Army Community Service here is currently looking for compassionate families to potentially provide a safe haven for children in need.
Volunteers in the Emergency Placement Care program, similar to foster care, are qualified to temporarily house a child for up to 90 days until a stable home with a parent or guardian is available.
“We want to make sure the children are going somewhere safe and secure,” said Brittany Franklin, manager of the Family Advocacy Program at ACS.
While the EPC program is rarely used in this community, Franklin hopes to enlist more volunteers since providers can leave the country and the process to certify a new provider can take months to complete.
A team of volunteers will also bring continuity to help maintain the health and wellbeing of children who may be dealing with a family crisis, Franklin said.
“It takes a village to raise a child, and children are our future,” she said. “And if they’re going through something that may be traumatic or is different, there’s an adjustment period.”
Jennifer Luera, a FAP specialist who certifies providers, said the training takes eight hours and covers various topics such as positive parenting, loss and separation, and domestic violence and its effect on children. A home visit and a monthslong background check are also required.
A provider must be a Department of Defense identification cardholder and can be from either a single or married family home that has an extra bedroom.
Luera said those interested in the program should also be willing to give up their time, since a child could stay in their home for a few months.
“They really have to understand that it is going to be all about the safety of these children that are placed in their home,” she said.
Lucinda Ward, an ACS specialist with a background in child care, is currently one of two providers in the community.
Ward, who encouraged others to volunteer, saw the position as an opportunity to give back to the community as well as support the Army’s priority of placing people first.
“Knowing that the children will have somewhere safe to go to is my ultimate goal,” she said, “and I know that I can provide that for them.”
Luera understands that for many community members it can be difficult to live overseas far away from their friends and family.
To get through the tough times, ACS offers several resources to ensure community members stay resilient.
“There are so many unique challenges with just being here and that is what we try to address,” she said.
Luera hopes that with their resources and class offerings, which can range from stress management to conflict resolution and financial readiness, the EPC program will never need to be used.
“All of those are preventive measures, and ensuring they know these resources are out there for them,” she said. “If you don’t know where to turn, the stressors can build up at home.”
For more information on the EPC program, contact ACS at DSN 263-4357 or 046-407-4357.