|By Lt. Gen. Rick Lynch, Commanding General,
Installation Management Command
The Army first observed the Month
of the Military Child in 1986, to honor the youngest members of the Army
community. As we celebrate it again this month, 25 years later and in
the 10th year of ongoing conflict, recognition of the sacrifices and
strength of our military children is more vital than ever.
The life of military children has always had its challenges, foremost
among them being frequent relocations. Every time Families move,
children have to make new friends, get used to new schools, and find new
clubs and teams to join. A lot of military children take these changes
in stride and some even thrive on them, but it is hard — children have
to rebuild their world every time and find their place in it.
Now, in this time of persistent conflict, the challenges are compounded
— they are more serious and affect more Families. About 1.8 million
children have a parent currently serving in the military. Since 2001, an
estimated 900,000 children have had one or both parents deploy multiple
times. Our children are dealing with long and repeated separations from
their parents. They are dealing with the happy but disruptive time when
their parents come home and the Family has to regain normalcy. Sometimes
they have to deal with the worst thing children can imagine, the death
of a parent. In the face of all this, for all of their contributions and
sacrifices, our children need and deserve our best efforts.
From the highest levels of leadership on down, the Army has committed to
providing Families with a quality of life that is commensurate with
their service and sacrifice. For our children, that includes a
commitment to ensure excellence in schools, child care and youth
services — to ensure they have the support and care they need to develop
into strong, resilient, well-rounded young adults.
Army Child, Youth and School (CYS) Services is central to delivering on
these promises. CYS Services currently serves almost 300,000 children
ages 6 weeks to 18 years in on- and off-post programs around the world.
Through its Child Development Centers, School Age Care, and Middle
School and Teen Centers, CYS Services provides healthy and enriching
environments that help children grow mentally, physically, socially and
emotionally. For the school-age children and teens in particular, the
CYS Services programs provide a whole world of topics to explore,
including fitness, health, arts, science and technology, leadership,
citizenship, life skills and careers. In addition, CYS Services runs a
robust sports program, with more than 112,000 children participating in
team and individual sports and sports clinics.
To meet the greater need for services, CYS Services has made tremendous
efforts to increase access and offerings, both on and off post. On
installations in the states and overseas, CYS Services has constructed
150 new child-care and 24 new youth centers since 2007. They also have
introduced innovative programs such as Neighborhood Activity Homes,
which provide places for older children outside of traditional
facilities. Off post, CYS Services has partnered with a number of local
providers and national organizations to serve Families who live in areas
far from an installation or in high-impact areas where the need exceeds
the capacity on the installation. CYS Services extends 16 hours of free
care per month to the Families of deployed Soldiers, Wounded Warriors
and Fallen Soldiers, a total of more than 1.08 million hours in fiscal
The focus on increasing access does two things for our Families. When
parents can take advantage of CYS Services, it decreases stress on the
Parents know that when they are deployed, when they are working, when
they are at medical appointments, their children are in a safe place.
They can focus on what they need to do, knowing that their children are
well cared for. Also, these programs provide our children with
much-needed support. They are in a caring environment with adults and
peers who understand what they are experiencing, and they have the
chance to pursue a wide range of interests and build their strengths.
In addition to providing quality out-of-school programs, CYS Services
also is focusing on supporting military children in school. Military
children attend, on average, nine different schools before they graduate
high school. The transition between schools can be rough when there are
incompatible requirements to enroll, to join extracurricular activities
or to graduate. It can be tough for students to settle in, when school
personnel do not understand the issues — the stress of being the new kid
yet again, the fear of separation, the disappointment that Mom or Dad is
missing another game or recital.
School Liaison Officers are located at every garrison to help Families
with these and other school-related issues. They play an important role
in helping students make a smooth transition and succeed at their new
school, by working with Families and school districts to meet needs and
requirements on both sides.
In a new two-year pilot program School Liaison Officers at seven
garrisons — Joint Base Lewis-McChord and Forts Benning, Bliss, Polk,
Stewart, Hood, and Wainwright — will be joined by Military Student
The consultants will be located in school district offices and work
closely with the School Liaison Officers to build understanding between
school districts, garrisons and Families about the needs of military
students and to support efforts, such as mentoring programs, which help
students plug into their new school. The consultants will be in place
this May to support Families through the summer PCS season.
I can point to any number of other ways Army CYS Services is doing a
phenomenal job of supporting our children. In addition to daily child
care and afterschool care, which meet the highest national standards,
CYS Services provides special events and camps, both on post and far
from any post.
There’s Tutor.com, where students can get online tutoring anytime and
anywhere. There are the Military Family Life Consultants, who provide
counseling to kids in school, and the Child Behavioral Consultants, who
work with children in the afterschool programs, when they are having
difficulties with their parent’s deployment.
Army CYS Services strives to provide a comprehensive range of services
for Families to help grow strong and resilient children. However, this
is only possible with the support of a number of dedicated, longstanding
partners, including universities, nonprofit organizations, and local and
state governments. They conduct research on the needs of military
children, draft policies and legislation in support of military
Families, develop curricula we use in our programs, provide training for
educators, counselors and others who work with military kids, and
provide services to military children who do not live near an
installation. We must continue to reach out to them and communicate how
they can help our children, because we cannot do it without them.
Month of the Military Child is an important observance, and a lot of
fun. Installations worldwide are holding hundreds of fairs, parades,
carnivals and other events throughout the month. I encourage you to get
out in your community and join in honoring and celebrating our children.
The Army does not confine its commitment to children to one month a year
— we owe our children more than that. They do not sign up for the
challenges military life brings, and yet they are right in there with
us, making sacrifices everyday and showing a lot of bravery. It’s our
job to do the best by them that we can providing the care, support and
opportunities they need to thrive in the face of challenges. Our
children are our future; when they are strong, we are strong.