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Mission Family: Free service lists caregivers for kids, elders and pets

Jul. 2, 2014 - 05:52PM   |  
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Summer often brings changes for military families, particularly if they’re moving during peak permanent change-of-station season.

Even if you’re not due for an imminent move to a new duty station, you may need to bolster your support systems. Your child care provider or baby sitter may be moving, or leaving town for the summer. You may need elder care or pet care.

To help military families find services in their current area — or new location — the Defense Department pays for memberships with Sittercity, a service offering instant access to nationwide, comprehensive caregiver profiles, including background checks, references, reviews, photos and more.

A 12-month membership normally runs $140. DoD will cover that cost, and then you pay the caregiver you choose. Since the program’s inception, more than 100,000 military families have used Sittercity.

All Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force families — active-duty and Selected Reserve as well as surviving spouses — are eligible.

The service can link you to certified in-home family child care providers and nannies in your area. It can also help you plan for contingencies such as last-minute child care needs, or finding summer baby sitters.

If you’re making a PCS move, Sittercity can help you find a sitter to watch your kids while the packers are at your house — or when they’re unpacking at the other end.

Sittercity also lists people experienced in caring for those with special conditions, such as attention deficit disorder, autism spectrum disorder, diabetes, Down syndrome, learning disabilities and more. The Sittercity search criteria include 30 special needs filters.

To sign up for your free membership, visit www.sittercity.com/dod.

It’s also a portable career opportunity for military spouses who are caregivers. To register as a caregiver, visit www.sittercity.com/militarysitters.

'Paws to Read'

One of the best things about summer is time to do more reading for pleasure. DoD’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation summer reading program helps further that mission with the ulterior motive of boosting brain power.

About 200 installation libraries are taking part in this year’s program, the animal-themed “Paws to Read.” DoD has provided libraries with content developed by iREAD, with resource guides and animal-themed materials and activities developed for librarians to motivate children to read.

Activities vary by location and will include everything from nature programs to K-9 demonstrations. Check with your installation for more information about its program, and to register. Or email DoDsumread@navy.mil.

Last summer, the program set a record: 14.6 million minutes of reading, up from 13.2 million in 2012. Nearly 60,000 readers participated.

It’s not just about fun: Students who read recreationally outperform those who don’t, studies show.

“We make sure reading is fun for children and families, but we also know it’s a seriously important program for supporting brain development, student achievement and learning over a lifetime,” said Nilya Carrato of the Navy General Library Program.

Karen Jowers is married to a military retiree.

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