If there's one thing I know about many MilSpouses, it's that we do NOT like the concept of the military telling us what to do.
Which is why the idea of "home inspections" can really stick in our craws. The military? Ordering us to let them look around our houses? I don't think so. They are already a part of SO much of our lives. Must they come into our homes, too?
Military home inspections are a common tool used by commands to make sure everything with a servicemember's home life is A-OK -- that the utilities are on, that the kids are well-cared for, that the house isn't being used as a meth lab and pretty much anything else. While these inspections are most often done by NCOs for their team members, it's not unheard of for home inspections to be done on the officer corps.
Those who live on-base can be required to comply with an inspection. Those who live off-base have the right to refuse, but officials can still come to their doors and ask.
The subject of home inspections is a hot one right now on several active military spouse Facebook community pages after a vocal Facebook Army girlfriend, Khouri Nicole Fritsch, was arrested Feb. 17, along with her boyfriend, on charges of child neglect and abuse. Khouri's two babies -- a one-year-old and a 3-month-old -- were found to be living in filthy conditions after she called police to her house during a domestic dispute. From this story (and the police report):
... 'Barely enough room to walk throughout the residence due to trash, broken furniture and other miscellaneous items being scattered about.' While the officers were investigating the domestic dispute, they observed large amounts of dog feces on the floor throughout the residence, bags full of trash as well as soiled diapers on the floor in most of the rooms and a steak knife had been left on the floor in easy access to the children. Flies, ants and roaches as well as old food and old bottles were also found throughout the house.So what is the reason the story has blown-up the pages, including "Army Wives Do it With Hooah," a page with almost 20,000 "likes?"
In the living room there was large gaps between the outside walls and the floor, letting in cold air, that were large enough for a small child to fall into. The house had a strong odor of feces, urine and trash. At the time of the investigation into the domestic dispute, neither child was clothed except for diapers.
Home inspections. Khouri had recently complained on the "Do it With Hooah" page that her boyfriend's command wanted to do a home inspection. She complained that the command had no right to come into her home, in part, she said, because they lived off-post and weren't married.
I can guess why she didn't want a home inspection.
It's also clear why home inspections, while irritating in theory, are important.
But they are also time consuming. To do them officials have to take time out of training or their off-hours to drive around and visit homes. Doesn't sound exactly like fun, does it? So home inspections are one of those things that fall through the cracks. Some units have a standard that they be done quarterly for all members. Others only do them when suspicions arise that one might be needed.
If Khouri was complaining about the prospect, her boyfriend's command obviously knew something was up. I reached out yesterday to Khouri through several channels to get her perspective on what happened - but got no response.
Facebook, of course, is rampant with rumors about her actions and behavior both online and off (most of which are far from flattering). But one comment on the "... Do it With Hooah" thread got my attention.
"I know (her) peeps and she's not a druggy, just doesn't keep a very clean home. And yes they needed help with money and things because, well, they're not good at budgeting, AND because he's not married they don't get as much money as the rest of us who are married get to claim more so we have more income and tax returns. She doesn't get all that, so they are in need," commented Facebook user Lisa Pearson Frampton. "They do not spend wisely, I do know that for a fact. But I think she should get her kids back. They LOVE their kids so much, just she needs a chance to clean up her house and take parenting classes. ... This is just very very sad, and very embarrassing. I feel soooooooo bad for those innocent babies!!"
While I think this commenter underplays how unacceptable it is for those babies to live the way were found, I think she does strike a point here. Khouri needs a chance to clean-up her house and take parenting classes.
But would either of those things ever happen if a home inspection (or, in this case, a police visit) had not taken place? Probably not.
Home inspections are one of the important tools the military -- and the military community -- uses to protect those who cannot protect themselves and to help spouses (or girlfriends) who need guidance. Just like the Air Force spouse who was accused of killing her 2-year-old by ignoring her in her crib for days on end, some are not strong enough to take care of themselves, much less their children. As spouses it is our job to stand in the gap and, when necessary, suggest a home visit or make a phone call to the city's child services.
So maybe once a quarter (or "as needed") isn't enough. Maybe home inspections should be mandatory (or, if living off base, at least a knock on the door) at least bi-monthly. If conducting them is the thing that keeps children out of danger or spouses from hurting themselves, are they too much to ask?