Department Program Works to Prevent Child Abuse
By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 13, 2011 Child abuse and neglect can affect all levels of society, but for military families, help and support are at their fingertips.
The military’s strong sense of community gives service members and their families an advantage in preventing abuse and neglect, said Tib Campise, a senior program analyst for the Defense Department’s family advocacy program.
The military’s rate of child abuse and neglect is only half the rate reported in the civilian community, Campise said, with five to six incidents per 1,000 children in the military community compared to about 12 cases per 1,000 children in the civilian sector.
Nurturing and attachment, knowledge of parenting and of child and youth development, parental resilience, social connections, and concrete support for parents are five protective factors linked to a lower incidence of child abuse and neglect, Campise said.
These factors, she explained, set conditions in families and communities to increase the health and well-being of children and families, and act as buffers to help parents who might be at risk for abuse.
“The five factors are strength-based, and tend to match up with what military parents want to build up in their families,” she said.
Campise said military families need to be aware of resources that are available at military bases as part of the DOD’s commitment to prevent child abuse and neglect. Though nurturing and attachment might come naturally for many parents, that’s not true for everyone, she noted. A new parent support program, part of Military Homefront, can be helpful for new parents, she said.
As part of the program, a coach goes into the home and helps new parents learn how to be at ease with creating a nurturing attachment with their newborn.
Another popular resource is the “Parent Review” weekly newsletter, Campise said.
“[The newsletter] is customized to the birth date of the child,” she said. “Each week, parents receive an email message that talks about where their child is developmentally and adds helpful hints and links to other resources targeted to the child’s developmental age.”
Fathers who are deployed also can sign up for the newsletter, she added, as well as grandparents and other family members who spend a lot of time with the children.
DOD’s family advocacy program addresses the issue of domestic abuse and child abuse in the military through prevention efforts, early identification and intervention, victim support, and treatment for abusers, Campise said. The program, she added, offers a wide range of services for the specific needs of individual families.
The program’s staff works with commanders, military law enforcement personnel, medical and family center staffs, chaplains and civilian organizations and agencies, she said.
Informal support also provides important resources, Campise said.
“We encourage military families to get out and meet their neighbors to get and give support from friends, family and community groups,” she said.
The key to preventing child abuse and neglect, Campise said, is for families to get ahead of it before it happens and to learn about the programs in their communities.
“Preventing abuse is about building relationships,” she said. “And the military really gets that.”