By Chelsea Bissell, U.S. Army Garrison Grafenwoehr Public Affairs April 23, 2012
GRAFENWOEHR, Germany -- An assignment in Germany has both benefits and drawbacks for many families. Distance from family, friends and home can sometimes cloud the travel and cultural opportunities of living in Europe. This strain, paired with regular deployments, creates too big a burden for some families.
To help ease this pressure on children, the Family Advocacy Program established the Emergency Placement Care system, which temporarily moves children from a dysfunctional home into the care of another family. These short-term families act as intermediary caregivers to children who need to be removed from their homes for health and safety reasons while their own families receive counseling.
But, even short-term responsibility of another's child can strike potential caregivers as an
overwhelming burden on their time and lifestyle.
Not so, say EPC providers Derek and Sarah Pearman. Though recently relocated back to the United States, the Pearmans spent their three years at Grafenwoehr as providers for the program. In those three years, they hosted children only twice.
"I don't think people realize how infrequent the phone calls (for placements) really are," said Staff Sgt. Derek Pearman, a medic for the Army Noncommissioned Officer Academy. "I'll go months without getting a call."
When children were placed in their home, the Pearmans found the experience low-stress and convenient. They mentioned that both guests thrived within the family and were great with their young daughter.
"We're not strict people, but we have guidelines. Both children took to it really well," said Master Sgt. Sarah Pearman from the 7th Warrior Training Brigade, an Army reserve unit based in Grafenwoehr.
The Pearmans attested that the services on post are flexible and ready to accommodate providers. The schools work closely with EPC providers, buses ensure the child can stay on their route, and Social Work Services and FAP help bridge the gap between the child's family and the provider. They make the child's transition as smooth as possible, briefing the EPC providers on the child's favorite foods, the chores they usually do and any other personal preferences.
While the child's best interests lie at the heart of deciding which provider gets which children, FAP and SWS make certain that the provider is comfortable and able to take someone into their home when the opportunity arises.
"The family isn't expected to drop everything if they can't stay home to be with the child," said Carolyn Bryant, Family Advocacy Program specialist.
"We were in no way restricted in our daily lives for being a part of the program."
The route to becoming a provider, while thorough, is not arduous. Those applying for the opportunity undergo a process that requires an autobiographic questionnaire, background check, home check and health screening. FAP looks for stability and a healthy home environment in their applicants. They also aim to keep Army children within a military household.
"It's a shame to have to place a kid outside a military home," Derek said. As a military family, he continued, "we can adapt to what the kids need better than those outside the community."
Those interested in participating in the Emergency Placement Care program are encouraged to call the Family Advocacy Program at DSN 476-2650, CIV 09662-83-2650. They can also be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.