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Taking care of our own: AFRC Services doing more than ever for family members.

From free child care and special camps for teens to the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program, Air Force Reserve Command is doing more than ever to help take care of the family members of Reservists. Here's a quick look at some of the family-friendly programs being offered by AFRC Services.

Home Community Care

The HCCP is for Air Force Reservists and Air National Guard members with dependent children who need help with child care during unit training assembly weekends. The program provides free licensed child care for dependent children ranging from infants to 12 years of age at more than 30 locations nationwide.

"The Home Community Care Program provided 500 hours of free day care in 2004," said Stacey Young, AFRC's chief of family member programs. "That number grew to more than 20,000 in 2008." Since July 2008, the number of providers has grown from 21 to 43.

Providers must meet rigorous certification criteria, and their certification is reviewed every six months, Ms. Young said. A total of six children can be cared for at each provider location, and only two of those can be infants less than two years old.

Ms. Young said the program goes to great lengths to make sure providers are available where they are needed.

"The program is not dependent on where service members live but rather where they drill," Ms. Young said. "We contract with civilian providers within a 10-mile radius of where members drill."

The HCCP is available at locations where regular child-care services are not available on base. At bases where child care is provided, Reservists should use licensed providers who participate in the Extended Duty Child Care program.

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"If an active-duty base does not have on-base licensed providers in EDCC, we will go out and find a civilian provider within 10 miles," Ms. Young said.

HCCP providers are available primarily on UTA weekends. However, arrangements can be made upon request for Reservists needing child-care services during a secondary weekend or annual tours. These arrangements are completely dependent on the availability of child-care providers.

During drill weekends, child care is available Saturday and Sunday from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Additional hours must be requested in advance and are dependent on providers' availability. No overnight stays are available through this program.

HCCP is fully funded by Headquarters Air Force, and it has the full support of the Department of Defense and Congress.

"The program is great for retention for those with families, and it is used by all ranks, ranging from lower enlisted to officers," Ms. Young said. "So far the biggest users have been E-4s through E-6s, although many officers have used the program as well."

Returning Home Care

The Returning Home Care program provides 16 hours of free child care after a deployment of 30 days or more. Care is provided in contracted HCCP homes or in EDCC homes on active-duty bases.

In addition, the National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies offers a pair of child-care programs to assist service members. Operation Military Child Care offers help in finding and subsidizing care for activated or deployed Reserve and Guard members. And the Child Care for Severely Injured Service Members Program helps severely injured military members and their families find and pay for up to six months of child care. More information on these programs is available on the Web at www.naccrra.org.

Teen Leadership Summit

The Air Force Reserve/Air National Guard Leadership Summit brings dependent children age 15-18 from all over the country together so they can bond with each other and learn how to be advocates for military families.

"The purpose of this program is to bring teens of Guard members and Reservists together to educate them on services and programs available to them as military dependents and to find out what their unmet needs are," Ms. Young said. "Special guests and our national community partners such as 4-H, Boys and Girls Clubs of America, American Legion and Military OneSource are invited to the camps to present information to the teens on how they are assisting Guard and Reserve families. We found this aspect of the camp to be especially well received by dependents who do not live near a military installation."

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Ms. Young and Brandi Mullins, a 4-H Air Force specialist at Robins Air Force Base, Ga., designed the teen summit program. The first summit was conducted last summer at the University of Georgia's Wahsega 4-H Center in the Georgia mountains. One hundred teens from all over the country attended that camp.

This summer, there were two summits: one at Wahsega July 13-17 and one at the 4-H center at Jekyll Island, Ga., July 27-31. The camps were loaded with a wide variety of activities, including white water rafting, high ropes adventures, sea kayaking and island exploring. The theme for this year's summits was "Speak Out for Military Kids."

"The most important aspect of this program is military dependents will be able to interact with others facing similar issues," Ms. Young said. "The friendships formed from these programs are for life, and the general sense from dependents is overwhelmingly positive. The program allows teens to experience leadership courses and challenging activities. At the end of the courses, the teens are asked to provide feedback, and the information is used to prepare future camps."

Yellow Ribbon

The Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program seeks to minimize the stresses of military service, specifically when a Reservist deploys and the family faces separation.

The focus of the YRRP is to provide support and outreach services to Reserve component service members, their families and communities throughout the deployment cycle. This program places particular emphasis on preparing service members and their families for the stresses associated with separation and deployment, educating members and families about resources available to assist them, and connecting members to service providers before and during deployments. The focus shifts to reconnecting service members with families and communities for successful reintegration after a deployment.

Bottom line: The intent of YRRP is to prepare Airmen and their families for deployment, sustain families during deployment, and reintegrate Airmen with their families, communities and employers upon redeployment.

"Members of Guard and Reserve units tend to disperse much more widely upon their return than those in active-duty units, and it is more difficult to ensure they receive the services and benefits they need and have earned," said U.S. Rep. Harry Mitchell, chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee, at a recent hearing on reintegration for National Guard members and Reservists.

"The need for DOD (Department of Defense) and VA to work together to assist returning Guard and Reserve members and their families is especially acute in today's environment, where the Guard and Reserve are serving at the same operational tempo as active-duty units," Representative Mitchell said. "Fully half of OIF and OEF veterans are members of the Guard or Reserve."

"Before YRRP, I saw many of our unit members and families slip through the cracks of total deployment cycle support," said Chaplain (Capt.) Jonathan Kollman of the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, who helps run Yellow Ribbon at his unit.

"As Citizen Airmen, they simply went from war to work," Chaplain Kollman said. "This was unacceptable. Now, because of YRRP, they are receiving vital information, resources and networking, and family members get wonderful care and support throughout the deployment cycle. The 445th Airlift Wing now has wonderful people on orders caring for families of our deployed members. It is a blessing to receive feedback and thankfulness from families and members saying, 'I left this event prepared for my husband or wife's deployment.' Reserve and Guard members in all military services need this support. Going from war to work is difficult, and YRRP is the bridge!"

"In the future, we envision the Yellow Ribbon program getting to the point where all our military members and their families are taken care of from pre-deployment through post-deployment," said Col. Mary Hill director of AFRC's Office of Deployment Cycle Support. "All of the military services will work together to take care of each other. For example, Army soldiers can go to an Air Force Reserve Yellow Ribbon event or vice versa. It doesn't matter what service you are in, you will still be taken care of."

(Mr. Abalo is a Palace Acquire intern working in the Headquarters AFRC public affairs office at Robins AFB.)
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Author:Abalo, Carlos
Publication:Citizen Airman
Date:Aug 1, 2009
Words:1411
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