At-War Soldiers' Kids Suffer at Home
Child Neglect, Abuse: One Cost of Long, Repeated Military Deployments
WebMD News Archive
Help for Military Families
The problem of child maltreatment is solved not by punishing families but by
helping them, says child-protection expert Lane.
"There should be an assessment of the family: Are there risks in
addition to the fact the parent is deployed? Is it just increased stress -- or
could there be lack of social support? Could there be substance use or abuse?
Could it be financial?" Lane says. "You work with the family to find
out what kind of support the family needs to avoid future neglect -- and give
parents better skills so the child is safe."
The U.S. Army is doing just that, Johnson says.
"The question we are addressing is, do we have a way of picking up on
these families at risk and following them as the baby develops?" Johnson
says. "We have a 24/7 help line families can call to ask for in-depth
counseling support. We have new-parent support programs that are especially
helpful with the areas that generate most concern, such as feeding. We have a
special-emphasis effort on 'do not shake babies.' And then we have a normal
range of parenting classes."
Sometimes, however, a family's problems are deeper than simple lack of
support or know-how.
"The deeper problem might be something more serious. For example, a
parent may have depression that needs to be treated, in which case you have to
make a referral to a mental health specialist," Lane says.
"The Army has put a lot of money into adding more social workers and
psychologists and psychiatrists to be available to our families, particularly
with the levels of depression we are beginning to see," Johnson says.
"We think we have the right programs in place. The chief of staff and the
secretary [of defense] with their infusion of dollars are saying we are there
for families. This means we are adding more home visitors to our new-parent
support, and making more of a move for child care to give parents a break, in
addition to other services we have available."
The current study does not address another problem for military families --
the stress of returning veterans with physical or psychological problems.
"What we know is, if they come home with a war-related psychological
disorder such as PTSD, there is a substantial increase in risk for additional
family conflict such as domestic violence or emotional problems with the
children," Fairbank says. "The unknown is of how this will play out in
terms of the newer aspects of this war -- such as high rates of traumatic brain
injury -- and what risk this will pose for child maltreatment. So it is very
important for these issues to be addressed now, both by providing services and
by studying what is going on so we can learn from it."