This post originally appeared on the DoD Live blog on April 1, 2011.
Military children continually amaze us as they rise to the challenges of military life. It’s a life of frequent moves, changing schools, leaving friends and making new friends. During April, the Month of the Military Child, we applaud their character and maturity, and we acknowledge that kids serve, too.
Our military community includes 1.8 million American children and youth under 18. The Department of Defense offers a wide range of programs and services to support military families and their kids. Just a few of the things we’re working on include:
- Working with states to minimize school disruption for military children during transition and deployment. The Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children provides common guidelines for participating states to follow common guidelines in handling issues including initial enrollment age, records transfer, graduation requirements and much more. So far, 35 states have adopted the Interstate Compact, covering 88 percent of students.
- Increasing access to quality, affordable childcare for military families. Today’s National Guard and Reserve forces mobilize and deployed at historic rates. Many military children, of all branches and components, live near away from military installations and even where they do, many locations are unable to meet the demand for care at military child development facilities. The DoD Child Care Expansion Initiative will help answer this growing need by ensuring their access to quality childcare in the communities in which they reside.
- Department of Defense Education Activity launched an online preregistration application last week. Through the site, parents can preregister their children in a DoD school from anywhere in the world, and even while on the move from one installation to another.
- A new, 365-page deployment guide is now available. This guide prepares families for deployment and has chapters dedicated to preparing children for deployment, helping them to cope with separation and the adjustment when the deployed parent comes home.
Installations around the world offer a huge range of activities for military kids at childcare centers, youth centers, clubs and camps.
The professionals at these programs get vital support from volunteers. I see the enormous amount of good done by the hands and hearts of volunteers. Their selfless work changes lives and strengthens our nation.
During the Month of the Military Child, I also encourage you to consider volunteering at any of the many organizations dedicated to military kids. From the Boys and Girls Club of America, 4-H Youth Development and the Armed Services YMCA, these and many other organizations provide quality programs to military families and their children.
Have you volunteered with youth in your community? Where do you volunteer? What inspired you to get started? What experiences have you had? How would you inspire someone else to serve as a volunteer? We’d like you to share your stories on the Facebook wall of Serve.gov.
Is the organization you support listed on Serve.gov? This is a nation-wide resource for finding volunteer opportunities in your community and creating your own. Listing the organization on this website allows other people to sign up and join you.
It’s hard to imagine a local t-ball league without volunteers. Who would prepare the field, coach the players or call the plays? Children are first in the mind of their parents, and during Month of the Military Child, we hope they become first in the minds of their communities as well.
There are many ways to serve, and many reasons. No matter what your age or background, your education or interests, your experience or abilities,Serve.gov has a volunteer opportunity that’s right for you.
Robert L. Gordon III is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy.