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Supporting Minnesota's Military Families With Children

PHOTO
PHOTO
July 10, 2012

ST. PAUL, Minn. - It's never easy to have a loved one in the service deployed overseas, but a program available in Minnesota is helping those military spouses left with the sole responsibility of taking care of the kids.

Julie Wasiluk is the coordinator of Give Army Parents a Break, which provides those parents with free child care.

"It can be somewhat stressful whenever you have a spouse deployed or if you have a single parent who's deployed and grandma and grandpa taking care of the kids. And so we want to make sure that the people back here taking care of the children are taking care of themselves so they can provide plenty of support."

Among those who have taken advantage of the program is Megan Hawks of Hendricks, who had three children age five and younger to take care of while her National Guardsman husband was deployed. Hawks says it takes a lot of the stress away to have someone watch your children while running errands such as going to the doctor or grocery shopping, or just to have a little break.

"It definitely helps mentally, physically, everything. I mean, just for us spouses having to take care of everything back home while the other spouse is deployed, it's a wonderful program."

The program was started in 2007, and while the number of local troops overseas has been dropping, Julie Wasiluk says they still have around 100 children in the program, and it'll continue to operate regardless of what happens with the conflicts overseas.

"We all know that our big groups of 'Red Bulls' came back just recently, and even though the war in Iraq and Afghanistan may end, we'll always have military families dealing with deployment, and they're from all over the state."

Give Army Parents a Break provides funding for 16 hours of child care a month, from 30 days before the deployment through 90 days following the return of the deployed spouse.

More information is at www.mnchildcare.org.

John Michaelson, Public News Service - MN