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Help On the Way for Parents of Military-Connected Children

By Rudi Williams
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 3, 2002 – Help is on the way for parents who want to be advocates for their military-connected schoolchildren but don't know where to go when they move from place to place around the world.

The Military Child Education Coalition heard parents' pleas and created a Parent Workshop program to help them. The first workshop is slated Sept. 24-25 at Fort Jackson, S.C., during the Transition Counselors Institute training conclave. Other workshops will be announced later.

The four-to-six-hour workshops will be conducted in conjunction with TCI conclaves at military installations across the country, according to Pete Taylor, chairman of MCEC's board of directors. The workshops will be taught by TCI trainers, who are educators with secondary school experience; high school counselors; transition specialists; military parents; and others. The institute trains transition counselors who understand the needs of mobile military-connected students and have the skills to bridge the transition from school to school.

The need for parent workshops was discovered during several TCI sessions. Trainers were flooded with requests for help from parents and installation officials, according to Laura Clayton, a trainer and a coalition board member.

"We were training the counselors, but they wondered if we would be able to talk to some of the parents," said Clayton. "We thought that, if we're going to talk to the parents, maybe we should put together a workshop to help them learn how to help their kids' transition."

"The best advocate for a child is the child's parent," Taylor emphasized. "They're the ones who care the most about their children. But we want to help them the best we can, and the school systems are trying to help them."

"They're constantly asking us for tips on how to deal with school systems, so we're trying to coach them," Taylor said. "When you've got a problem with your child, whom do you go to? Where do you start? What kind of records do you need to have? What are the questions you should be asking?"

Clayton said trainers will sit down with parents. "We'll discuss what their rights are, who they can deal with in the school system, and any other concerns they may have," she added.

Clayton said one of the key things parents are told is to be involved in their child's education. "The child's education is their career -- K through 13-plus," she said, referring to kindergarten through college levels. "We tell parents not to just look at what the child needs this year. Look a couple of years ahead. Think about two years ahead of where your child is now in helping them for what they're going to need.

Being involved is one of the most important things parent can do, she said. "Don't go to the school only when there are problems. Go to the school when things are going great. Be involved at every level," she emphasized.

Pointers and pitfalls are workshop topics that feature the art of networking. "You might not think of something that somebody else has already done that might help you help your child to succeed," Clayton noted.

Parents can also get a wealth of information on the MCEC Web site at www.militarychild.org. "Part of our Web site gives testing requirements," Clayton noted. "They may be different from state to state and overseas."

The parent workshop is free to MCEC member installations and school systems, except for travel and lodging assistance for the trainers.

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Click photo for screen-resolution image"We thought that, if we're going to talk to the parents, maybe we should put together a workshop to help them learn how to help their kids' transition," said Laura Clayton, a Transition Counselors Institute trainer and member of Military Child Education Coalition's board of directors. Photo by Rudi Williams.  
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