April is Child Abuse Prevention Month. This occasion provides advocates across DOD a chance to raise awareness of community efforts to stop child abuse and neglect. Photo by in.gov

Pinwheels represents happy childhood experts wish for children


Along with flowers, April brings the celebration of Child Abuse Prevention Month. As Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall celebrates, you are likely to see pinwheel gardens in front of the church and blue ribbons embracing the trees on the bases. Pinwheels represent the happy childhood that we wish for all children and the blue ribbons represent the 3.2 million reports of abuse each year.

The number of children affected by child abuse are staggering; five children die every day from child abuse and 1 in 7 children have experienced some form of abuse in their lifetimes. How do we prevent child abuse? One of the ways to prevent child abuse is through education. One of the core parenting education programs on JBM-HH is the New Parent Support Program.

The New Parent Support Program educates new parents with children up to age 3 (Army) and age 5 (Marines) on child development, tantrums, positive discipline, newborn care, breastfeeding, postpartum depression and provides connections to support services as needed. During nonCovid-19 times, the New Parent Support Home Visitor visits Families in their homes. Currently, the JBM-HH home visitors are visiting virtually and facilitating a virtual play morning.

Another way to prevent child abuse is to make our communities aware of child abuse so that they will act, ask more questions and offer help when they see a child in need. It is more important than ever that if you see something, say something. You could save a life.

Adjusting and Overcoming

It has been more than a year since the pandemic sent waves of panic into our lives. In order to decrease the likelihood of getting Covid-19, we have made many changes — having food and other items delivered, teleworking and virtually learning from our homes, and postponing or even cancelling events such as weddings, graduations and sports games. When we do venture into public spaces, we are wearing masks, sanitizing our hands and staying 6 feet away from others. Our community has discovered ways to adjust and overcome many obstacles during the past year. One adjustment that we have been able to make here at JBM-HH is starting a virtual playgroup.

The JBM-HH New Parent Support Program has been offering the virtual play morning every Thursday since November via the WebEx Platform. Although this group is not the same as the in person play groups of the past, we have had success in serving our military Families — safe at home while providing a much-needed space for new parents and for parents of young children. Our format is short and simple — introductions, singing songs, story time and an intention for the week but our impact has been important to the Families.

Danielle, a U.S. Army spouse with two young children wrote, “We love how the group gives us a weekly activity to look forward to and the fun songs and story time. Also, I love how it provides us with a sense of community and support.”

Sarah, a U.S. Air Force spouse and new mom sent us this comment that read, “The Fort Myer-Henderson Hall New Parent Support Program has a wonderful play morning for children (birth) to 5 (years old) Thursday mornings at 10 a.m. As a new mother of a 7 month old, I have participated weekly in this playgroup for months. My son absolutely loves it! We spend time singing with the children, reading stories and learning about developmental stages. Laurie and Diane are absolutely wonderful to work with. They are so kind to the parents and the children. It has been a great opportunity for me and my son to spend time with other children and other new parents as well. I recommend it, as it is a fun experience to look forward to each week.”

Because being at home alone with children can feel very isolating, having a group with other parents to meet with can be a lifesaver in times like these.

We know that there are many Families who would benefit from joining our weekly playgroup. Studies have shown that parents who are engaged with their community and have Family or other support systems in place, are at a lesser risk of child abuse and neglect.

By Diane Waters and Laurie Laszakovits

JBM-HH New Parent Support Program