Last summer, shortly after Laura Shapland’s daughter Elizabeth was born, she joined a U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern Army Community Service group for new parents.
While the ACS Family Advocacy Prevention Program regularly offers several free classes and workshops to prevent and educate parents about child abuse and neglect, Shapland, 32, whose husband serves in the Air Force, had a far different motive in joining, she said.
“I was simply looking for something social where I could share with and learn from other moms going through the same experiences,” Shapland said.
It’s that interaction, plus access to community resources, that can help parents when stressful or difficult situations arise, said Yonette Davison, manager of the garrison’s FAP program.
“Our ‘zero to three’ program is the cornerstone prevention program for community members,” Davison said. “New parent support also offers a home visiting program and ongoing classes such as Basic Training for New Parents and Boot Camp for Dads.”
The FAP program also offers several stress and anger management classes. Courses are also available for couples who want marriage enrichment, she said.
In the new mom’s group, coordinators organize interesting and informative guest speakers, Shapland said. Since then, the program has offered some unique opportunities, to include baby massage, baby signing, physical development, new mom exercise and pediatric dentistry.
“While moms are learning, the little ones are playing together on the floor or in our laps,” Shapland said. “There’s usually someone with a baby a little bigger than yours who can answer your questions, and equally someone with questions of their own.”
The KMC, like any other U.S. military community, sees cases of child abuse – often in the form of discipline that goes too far and bruises or marks are left on the child, said Lt. Col. Lars Zetterstrom, commander of U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern.
“This is a problem that we can stem by talking about it. Turning a blind eye or avoiding the problem is unacceptable,” Zetterstrom said. “We need to know how to identify the problem and where to turn to for help.”
Military community members found to be most at risk are younger parents, age 18 to 25, with their first child and on their first enlistment in the Army, Davison said.
“But, anyone can take advantages of these free resources,” she said.
For more information on classes offered through the Family Advocacy program, call 0631-3406-4228.