By Mrs Mindy Campbell (USAREUR)October 18, 2011
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- When a child in the Kaiserslautern Military Community is in need, Master Sgt. Jim Sharp and his family are there to step in and open their hearts and home to help.
Sharp, along with his wife, Jen Guth, are volunteers in the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern's Emergency Placement Care program. The Army Community Service program provides children in need with a temporary home. It is comparable to the civilian foster care program back in the United States, said Yonette Davison, the Family Advocacy Program manager.
"We market, certify and train foster families to provide short-term crisis care for children that have been taken from their natural families due to abuse or neglect," Davison said.
When a child is removed from a home -- which can be for a variety of reasons including family crisis, abuse or neglect, drug or alcohol treatment for parents or medical or psychiatric treatment of parents -- he or she will be placed in short-term care in a home with one of the EPC families, Davison said. Sometimes the child will stay a few days or even just overnight. It usually won't exceed more than 90 days.
Sharp, who has been involved in the program for three years, has had the opportunity to provide temporary homes to children three times in the past few years.
"It is a wonderful feeling that we are helping others," said Sharp, who is with Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 5th Battalion, 7th Air Defense Artillery Regiment on Rhine Ordinance Barracks. "To see them reunited with their parents and see their issues resolved is great."
However, the EPC program is in dire need of volunteer families, Davison said. Normally, Davison has about 14 families certified and on hand to take in children. Recently, as many KMC service members rotated to new duty stations, several EPC volunteers moved away from the area. Davison she currently only has the Sharp family.
If an American family is not available to take the child in, the child will be taken into the German system -- something to be avoided, Davison said.
"The child will go into the German orphanage until we, as Americans, can resolve the case," she said. "We are given the opportunity to take care of our own children in our own homes."
EPC volunteers come from all walks of life, Davison said. They can be from any branch of the military, can be married, single, active duty, retired, or civilian or Department of Defense employees, Davison said.
Once accepted into the program, volunteers will receive about 12 hours of training for the initial certification, with an additional six hours required to keep your certification active. Training topics include: first aid, stress management, cultural awareness, reunification, crisis prevention, discipline, abuse and neglect, separation and loss, child development and the roles and responsibilities of an EPC parent.
Despite the lengthy application process, it is worth it, Sharp said.
"It is a really good program and I really support it," he said. "If we don't take care of our kids, where else will they go?"
For more information about the ACS Emergency Placement Care program, contact the Family Advocacy Program manager at DSN 493-4228 or 0631-3406-4228.