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How Can Single Parents Find Reliable Caregivers During Deployment?

Ms. Vicki

Dear Ms. Vicki,

I'm writing to you to ask for help. I'm trying to create a better program for single military parents.

I've noticed over the past few years that more children seem to be dying at the hands of either a boyfriend or girlfriend who is caring for the child of a service member during a deployment.

Step by step, how would you make the family care plan a more reliable system to help identify if that boyfriend or girlfriend is capable of caring for that child? What type of system can we put in place to set service members up for success? How can we help them recognize when someone should not be put in charge of caring for their child?

Sincerely,
Miguel

Dear Miguel,

Thank you for taking the time to write me this very important request. Honestly, every day I hear sad news about children dying at the hands of their caregivers.

Sad and shocking as this is, I can see how it happens. I have heard from service members who say they left their children in the care of a family member or friend who wasn't caring for them properly or who wasn't taking care of the child's physical and emotional needs.

Parents need to work, and they need their careers to provide financially for their children. This increases the stress they feel to keep their employment. This stress and anxiety can cause them to use poor judgment and leave their children in the care of adults who do not have the child's best interests in mind. These adults may have behavior and character flaws, unresolved emotional or mental concerns, poor coping skills for stress, poor judgment and impulsivity, etc.

Service members are coping with the same stress and anxiety of trying to handle a career while making sure their children are safe in their absence.

Honestly, Miguel, some service members may have to choose between a military career that requires a lot of absences from their children or a career that will allow them to be at home with their children because they just don't have people who can step up and provide quality care in their absence.

Please send me more information on this subject. I would like to be involved in helping service members choose the best caregivers for their children in their absence. Maybe we can put together a checklist or suggestions in what to look for when choosing a caregiver or temporary guardian.

In the meantime, here are some Ms. Vicki quick tips on this subject:

1. Don't leave your children in the care of someone with whom you have contention. Think about it: If you argue and fight with someone all of the time, they will project that contention on someone with less power -- your child.

2. Choose someone who is mature and has a lot of support from others, such as family members, friends, spiritual support and community support. Caregivers need support and respite, too. They should have opportunities for self-care, especially with the added responsibilities of caring for your child or children.

3. Never leave your children in the care of someone you've known for only a few months. A lot of people seem great when you first meet them, but that doesn't mean you should leave your children with them.

4. Lastly, be honest and let your command know if you don't have an adequate caregiver. Let your commanders know you need more time. Do not leave your children with someone who cannot handle the responsibility.

-- Ms. Vicki

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Contributor

Ms. Vicki is a native of Dallas, has been the Dear Abby for the military community since her column began in 2005. A licensed therapist and licensed clinical social worker, Ms. Vicki holds a Master of Science in social work and a Master of Arts in clinical psychology.

Ms. Vicki appears regularly on Military.com and in the Fort Campbell Courier. Her column has also appeared in the Washington (D.C.) Times and in the Heidelberg (Germany) Post Herald. She has been featured on CNN, CBS, ABC and NBC.

Looking for advice about your military life? Email Ms. Vicki here. Find Ms. Vicki on Facebook here.  Find Ms. Vicki on Twitter here.

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