***image1***Starting or providing for a family with children can be an overwhelming responsibility for many people. Trying to do it while living overseas away from a support group of family and friends may sometimes feel very lonely if not impossible.
Luckily, the Department of Defense has provided a means of assistance and a friendly staff of family professionals in the Women, Infants and Children Overseas Program at Ramstein, Bldg. 2118 (next to the Value-added Tax office).
The program, for KMC servicemembers, civilian employees, contractors and their family members of the DoD, provides benefits to expectant and new mothers and their children 5 and younger.
Cathleen Holmes, regional manager for Western Europe WIC – Overseas, has been working in WIC for more than 20 years with two years at Ramstein.
She is one of two registered dieticians working alongside six other counselors who are averaging 50 appointments a day with more than 1,800 active participants.
“It’s a great program,” said Ms. Holmes. “I enjoy working with families who are interested in their children’s welfare.”
The dietician said eligibility for the program was determined by family size and all household income, which does not include Cost Of Living Allowance or Housing Allowance.
“There are many people who are eligible for WIC that don’t even know it,” she said. “The best thing to do is to give us a call to find out.”
She said once it is determined you are eligible for benefits, you will receive redeemable food coupons called “drafts” provided by WIC.
“The money you save, is money you can spend or save to put away or buy other foods,” she said. “What’s good for kids is good for families. We’re here to help others.”
Joann Cisneros, currently receives drafts for her two children, Leanna, 3 and Angelina, 1. In the past, she received drafts for herself and her oldest child who is no longer eligible because of age.
“I’m from the Philippines. They don’t have anything like this out there,” said Mrs. Cisneros. “It has been a huge help to our family.”
The mother of three said one reason she uses the program is because baby formula, along with other food items for the children, is really expensive.
“WIC will provide all the formula you need. We also get free eggs, cheese and milk,” she said. “I’m very thankful for the program. It really helps. If there is anything out there to help our family, we’ll take it.”
Kim Spano, WIC wellness counselor, said in addition to the food drafts issued every month, the program provides ideas for meal planning, food preparation and recipes that are nutritionally based, delicious and easy to prepare.
Mrs. Spano said she examines each child’s growth charts taken from periodic nutritional screening and testing to track and monitor their diets. She will then take that information and use it in her nutrition counseling sessions with the parents.
The wellness counselor gives helpful tips like never putting juice in a bottle to feed the baby or wiping off an infants gums and teeth with a washrag to help them start with dental hygiene early.
“It’s very rewarding,” she said. “I just try to give each family a little bit of helpful information they didn’t have before.”
One thing she said she likes to emphasize now is family mealtime.
“We really try to help people bring back family values,” she said. “Little changes can make a huge difference in children’s lives.”
WIC-Overseas office hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information and to find out if you or your children are eligible, call 480-4466 or visit http://www.tricare.osd.mil/Wic