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Childcare Help for MN Army Families

November 2, 2010

ST. PAUL, Minn. - Families of deployed military personnel often face big challenges, particularly if there are small children saying good-bye to mom or dad for the first time. One unique Minnesota program is helping by providing respite child care for families of deployed Army National Guard and Army Reserve members.

Julie Wasiluk, military child care services coordinator with Minnesota Child Care Research and Referral, says the Army Respite Child Care program offers support for child care providers as well as for parents.

"We also provide professional development opportunities for our child care providers, that help them to understand what deployment means for the families and how to support the children during that really difficult time."

Sergeant Andrew Stang has served for eleven years as an Army reservist. During his first deployment, he and his wife Lindsay didn't have kids. This time around, Lindsay is caring for three small children on her own as a stay-at-home mom.

"Taking on this second deployment meant a whole new challenge for us to figure out how we were going to survive, with me being here with three children, and how they were going to take it."

Lindsay says one of the biggest challenges for her kids is dealing with the emotions of dad not being home at the end of the day.

"Every week they ask me, 'Is dad coming home tomorrow? Will dad be home this weekend? Or is dad going to be here for Halloween?'"

She says keeping the kids busy has been a big help, and the respite program has given the kids one more activity they can look forward to each week.

"The program was not only helping me with the things that I needed to get done, but it was also a time for them to go and socialize with other kids their age, other kids that may have a parent in the military, or other kids that are missing their mother or father for any reason."

As for mom - Lindsay says it's been nice to go grocery shopping without the kids, and to have a little break to look forward to each week.

The program offers up to 16 hours of respite care a month. Julie Wasiluk notes that over 2,000 licensed child care providers throughout the state have signed onto the program.

To find a provider or to offer childcare services, visit mnchildcare.org or call 1-888-291-9811.

Sharon Rolenc, Public News Service - MN