Every new duty location brings a new set of resources to identify and locate. Now that I am a mother, I have changed my outlook on what type of resources I need to identify.
Since returning to the Church in late-2012, my first stop on an installation is now typically the local chapel. It’s nice to get a feel for the chapel community, and it’s also nice to get an understanding of the tempo – is the chapel one that is supportive of families with small children? Is there an active women’s group that can provide a little extra spiritual or emotional support? Is there a way for moms with small children to find each other, in order to provide friendship, commiseration, and support? Many Army installations offer a Catholic Women of the Chapel (CWOC), as well as a Protestant Women of the Chapel (PWOC) group.
Within the military chapels, sometimes there is also a branch of Mothers of Preschoolers, Inc. (MOPS), which is an international non-denominational group, geared toward providing support to mothers who may be pregnant, up until their children hit kindergarten. Outside of the military lifestyle, MOPS is found in civilian churches, and pick up the local flair of the church that is usually hosting the MOPS groups. What I have appreciated about MOPS groups on military installations is how truly non-denominational those groups feel – they welcome me, as a Catholic Christian, to their circle of women, without trying to feel the need to encourage me to attend their local church, or their local church service!
After exhausting resources at the chapel, I next turn to secular resources. Because we are an Army family, I will address Army resources, but am well aware there are other names for similar resources found in other branches.
My first secular stop is Army Community Services (ACS). ACS is the home for “all things Army family related.” They usually offer classes and support for family-life related issues such as budgeting/finance, Military Family Life Counselors (MFLCs), New Parent Support Program (NPSP), Family Advocacy, Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) case managers, and more! Typically, some beneficial, free-of-charge classes are offered through ACS, to include: parenting classes, communication classes, resume building workshops, and more.
Most NPSPs offer play groups, based on children’s ages (they work with families from pregnancy through age three), “Daddy Boot Camp” classes (where Dad’s get to experience how-to-prepare for a newborn baby), breastfeeding support, and behavioral and developmental support. NPSP also offers optional, free, home visits to families in an effort to prevent child abuse, neglect, and endangerment. These are completely voluntary, and are a great way to have an outside pair of eyes ensure your home is childproofed, your child is receiving the necessary behavioral or developmental support (in the event of developmental delays), and one-on-one parenting skill classes designed to meet the needs of whatever parenting challenge a parent is facing.
After ACS, I take a trip to Child & Youth Support Services (CYSS). They are the location that allows a parent to register their children for hourly childcare, and get on the waitlist for daycare on an installation (if that is needed). They also provide extra age-appropriate physical training classes, like karate, soccer, basketball, golf, etc.
In order to fully register through CYSS, be prepared to have a copy of their physical form (available by swinging by their office and picking it up) filled out within the past year, and three local emergency contacts. Our local CYSS required an emergency contact within my husband’s chain of command. This part of registering is often the most difficult, since many times, we have a very tenuous connection with others when we are new to a duty location!
After CYSS, I usually hit up our local library. Registering at a DoD library is quick and easy! Instead of another card to keep in my wallet, there is a certain convenience factor when all I need to do is register with them, and then my children are able to easily check out as many books as would make their hearts content!
The first couple weeks at a new duty location can be a whirlwind for my husband, as he signs in, orients to the new installation, and begins his new position. Yet, it can also be a busy time for the rest of us as well! It’s nice to be able to know where to go and what to do to get adjusted as a mother and a young family.