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Mission - Family: Reach for help outside the gates, too

May. 9, 2013 - 04:06PM   |  
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Help for military families is not confined within the gates of military installations. That’s a good thing, since about two-thirds of families live outside the gates.

Whether you’re making a move to a new duty station, prefer to go outside the gate for assistance, or just haven’t needed a particular program, consider some of these community resources:

Sittercity.com/dod helps you find baby sitters, nannies, pet sitters, dog walkers, housekeepers, tutors and senior care. The Defense Department pays for memberships to Sittercity for Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force families — active duty, Guard and reserve. You pay for the actual service once you find the person who fits your family’s needs. These memberships allow you access to prescreened caregivers.

Since the program started in 2010, some 89,500 military families have used the Sittercity Military Program, said Lauren Tarasewicz, military program manager for Sittercity. The top three circumstances for using it are during deployments, after a permanent change-of-station move and living off the installation, she said.

More than 75 percent of military families seeking child care reported that access to Sittercity reduces their stress levels.

Sittercity is also a resource for spouses seeking employment. Since 2011, more than 9,000 military spouses have connected to employment opportunities on Sittercity.

Give an Hour is a nonprofit organization with a network of more than 7,000 mental-health professionals in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico and Guam, who have donated more than 70,000 hours of counseling to those affected by Iraq and Afghanistan wartime deployments. Service members and their loved ones — including spouses, children, parents, siblings and unmarried partners — can seek counseling, separate from the military establishment, for free. Visit www.giveanhour.org.

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American Red Cross has support services for military families in addition to its well-known disaster relief efforts. Red Cross can provide information and classes on preparing for, coping with and reintegrating after deployment. Red Cross chapters in local communities are in tune with resources available for families. Visit www.redcross.org/find-help/military-families/deployment-services.

Deployments aren’t ending — they’re a fact of life for the future. Right now, the military provides a lot of help at family centers on bases and through Military OneSource. Whether DoD will continue to provide the money and resources at current levels remains to be seen.

Regardless, not everyone lives near a military base, and some people just prefer to use services outside the gates.

These are just a few national resources with a presence in many local communities that are anxious to help troops, veterans and families.

Karen Jowers is the wife of a military retiree.

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