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NEWS | April 4, 2013

Child Abuse Prevention Month focuses on importance of healthy families

By Robert Goetz Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Public Affairs

The Air Force's focus on the family comes to the forefront in April, when Child Abuse Prevention Month and Month of the Military Child observances shine a light on the importance of healthy families and safe, secure children.

The 359th Medical Operations Squadron's Family Advocacy Program and Mental Health Flight members promote strong families year-round with briefings, counseling sessions and a host of classes open to Department of Defense card holders. This month they'll play a prominent role in two events that focus on the welfare of children.

Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph Youth Programs' Famaganza, an annual family festival set for April 13, and Kids' Day in the Park, a San Antonio community wide family-friendly event scheduled April 20 at San Pedro Springs Park, provide venues for disseminating information about child abuse prevention, Emily Mueller, 359th MDOS Family Advocacy intervention specialist, said.

"We're going to focus on getting information out during Famaganza," she said. "We'll have a booth there, and information and resources will be available. We'll also have some craft activities for families and will be encouraging parents to attend some of the classes we offer."

Kids' Day in the Park, which is expected to draw some 10,000 people, will give representatives of the family advocacy programs at all three JBSA locations an opportunity to provide information to the public and showcase the military's efforts in child abuse prevention, Mueller said.

"Family advocacy staff members are part of the planning process for the event, and military members will be part of the volunteer team," she said.

Information about child abuse prevention will be available throughout April at the Randolph Medical Clinic, and the monthly classes that help parents deal with their emotions and improve their parenting skills will be available to DOD card holders.

These include "Stress Management Relaxation Techniques for Parents" and "Master Your Emotions" at the Randolph Health and Wellness Center, and "Talk is Cheap" and "Scream-Free Parenting" at the Randolph Airman and Family Readiness Center.

"Couples with children are at higher risk for problems in a relationship, so it's important to address relationship issues and reduce those risks," Mueller said.

The classes help parents in a variety of ways, from learning to cope with anger in healthy and productive ways to strengthening body language and tone of voice, and learning to communicate more effectively.

"The 'Scream-Free Parenting' class focuses on identifying how to stay calm, but still communicate clearly and concisely," Mueller said. "It's an approach to parenting that addresses taking better care of yourself and strategies for dealing with various parenting and discipline issues."

Two events that help parents address bullying are also planned in April, she said. The Relate Right San Antonio Program, an initiative of the Bexar County Family Justice Center, will offer a parents' session on bullying at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday at Randolph Youth Programs, building 585, and a session on bullying for teens and parents at 4:30 p.m. April 24, also at Youth Programs.

Promoting healthy families and helping mothers and fathers become better parents are important functions for the Air Force, Mueller said.

"When there are problems in relationships and families, it can significantly impact the mission, so it's important to support families to become healthy," she said.

Everyone can play a role in child abuse prevention, Mueller noted.

"Anybody who suspects child abuse should report it immediately," she said. "Our primary goal is reducing the risk for maltreatment and making children safe. We want people to know where we are and what resources are available."