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Month of the Military Child, Child Abuse Prevention Month recognize sacrifices, increase awareness

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Katherine Holt
  • 1st Special Operations Wing Public Affairs
There are approximately 1.9 million military children worldwide who face unique challenges related to military life and culture.

Hurlburt is home to more than 5,500 of those 1.9 million military children.

“Military children are often times forgotten when we talk about the mission, what they face and the stressors they incur,” said Shirley Sims, Family Advocacy outreach manager. “From deployments to extended care needs, children are affected while their parents work to keep the mission going.”

Due to frequent moves, many military children experience disrupted relationships with friends and must adapt to new schools and cultivate new community resources.

“Children hate to leave their friends, but it is more important for children to be with their families,” Sims said. “Sometimes, parents struggle with this, and feel they fall short, but as long as the children are taken care of and their needs are being met, they can overcome.”

Additional stressors include those related to deployments such as parental separation, family reunification and reintegration.

“It’s not easy,” said Sims. “Children may even go through a form of depression while missing their deployed parent, but if anyone knows about resiliency, it’s our military children.”

To kick off this year’s Month of the Military Child, Col. Sean Farrell, 1st Special Operations Wing commander, signed a proclamation proclaiming April as the Month of the Military Child here.

“I’m proud of what you do, and I’m proud of what your parents do,” he told the crowd. “Know that we think you guys are very special.”

Additionally, Farrell signed a proclamation proclaiming April as Child Abuse Prevention Month here, where he called “upon all citizens, community agencies, religious organizations, medical facilities and squadrons to increase their participation in our efforts to prevent child abuse, thereby strengthening the communities in which we live.”

Recent research has revealed an increase in military child maltreatment and neglect since the start of combat operations and deployments to Afghanistan and Iraq, according to The National Child Traumatic Stress Network website.

“Parents are busy and may be tied up with multiple distractors, and they can forget about the quality of time aspect,” Sims said. “Children may be at risk when it comes to supervision. We encourage off base parents to consider abiding by on base guidance with regard to children being left home alone.”

Equipped with the right tools, military parents can serve as a buffer against the challenges their children face. Professionals in health care, family service, education recreation and faith-based services who work with military families can also help reduce the distress that military children experience, and can foster individual and family resilience.

“It’s hard to say who is more at risk than others, but we encourage parents to be proactive,” Sims said. “We suggest they get involved with Airman and Family Readiness activities, welcome spouse, new parent support and classes provided by Family Advocacy.”

The responsibility of reporting physical, emotional and sexual abuse or child neglect doesn’t just fall on the immediate family members.

“Child abuse prevention is everyone’s responsibility,” Sims said. “In fact, it is Florida Law for adults to report abuse. Childcare providers, medical providers, commanders, first sergeants and the like are mandated to report known abuse.”

Events in honor of Month of the Military Child and Child Abuse Prevention Month are scheduled throughout April. For a full listing of events, contact Family Advocacy at 881-5113.

For details on Hurlburt Field supervision guidelines, click here.