WASHINGTON, D.C. — With April designated as Child Abuse Prevention Month, the Defense Department is highlighting its commitment to preventing child abuse and neglect among military families, especially through the Family Advocacy Program, and providing those who need it with counseling.
The FAP focuses on strengthening family resilience though visits and counseling with new military parents, as well as on educating young families about the stresses of parenting and what it takes to maintain healthy relationships especially when some members are deployed.
The department has created the New Parent Support Program, a voluntary home-visiting program aimed at helping parents-to-be or those with young children adapt to parenthood through classes, community support groups and other forms of instruction.
“Our whole goal is to provide a safe, stable and nurturing environment for our military families, especially for our military children,” Kathy Robertson, the director of the Family Advocacy Program, told American Forces Press Service and the Pentagon Channel. Key to that, she said, is helping families find the social connections and resources within their base or community to get through the challenges of military life.
“We have young military families who are away from their own immediate family who need to rely on us and we need to support them,” she said.
Robertson said the level of child abuse and neglect in the military is comparable to society at large, noting that the services had more than 15,000 reports in 2011 of allegations of child abuse and neglect. Neglect — often related to a lack of supervision, rather than abuse — is the most frequent situation in those cases, she added.
“We believe it has risen with the result of the wars, with the number of deployments, with levels of depression in some of the parents,” Robertson said. “So we’re doing all we can to reach out to these families.”
Families wanting to learn more about programs designed to prevent abuse and those seeking counseling are urged to contact family centers on their base or installation or through militaryonesource.mil.
“We have more than 1,900 professionals working for DOD and family advocacy who work tirelessly every day and are very dedicated to support families,” Robertson emphasized. “Child Abuse Prevention Month gives us the opportunity to really look at what we’re doing, how effective it is, and what more we can do.”