Child Development Organization Aids Military Children, Families

By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, April 3, 2006  - Recognizing that children of servicemembers often face challenges that other children do not, the nonprofit child development organization "Zero To Three" launched a special project geared specifically toward military families.

"Supporting military children is an essential element of supporting military families in general," Dorinda Williams, a Zero To Three training and consultation specialist, said in an interview. "Zero To Three recognizes that military parents often face extreme and emotionally draining circumstances, and we try to provide support through information and resources that translate into increased capacity to meet the emotional needs of babies and toddlers."

April is officially the "Month of the Military Child," which celebrates military young ones and raises awareness about their unique situation. Zero To Three works toward these ends all year long by supporting the healthy development and well-being of military children by educating their parents on child-rearing techniques. "We are a national, multidisciplinary organization that advances our mission by informing, educating and supporting adults who influence the lives of infants and toddlers," Williams said.

Zero To Three concentrates on critical issues affecting young children and their families, including early language and literacy development and the impact of culture on early childhood development. The organization is adept at translating what is known from the science of early childhood development into practical tools and resources for professionals, programs, parents and policymakers, Williams said.

Over the past several years Zero to Three has become increasingly involved with issues affecting military children. For instance, the group established a military projects division specifically aimed at the needs of babies and toddlers of military families.

One of the division's projects is "Operation Parenting Edge," a partnership of the Marine Corps and the federal Early Head Start program. This venture is a two-year training and consultation pilot project that supports Early Head Start staff by increasing sensitivity to how babies and toddlers may be impacted by military-specific stresses, Williams said.

The organization provides training through on-site visits, special meetings, and teleconferences. "This project stems from the recognition that, with current world events ... military families and resources available to them may be increasingly strained," she said. "It is our hope that this project will serve as a model of how the military can collaborate with civilian resources to further expand support to families."

In addition, Zero To Three hosted a Defense Department summit in Washington, D.C., in November. The summit brought together professionals supporting military families from around the world. The overall intent of the summit was to promote the interests and needs of babies and toddlers through specialized trainings and workshops, Williams said.

Zero To Three also currently is developing a media campaign in response to the needs of military installations particularly effected by repeated and extended deployments. The campaign "will assist caregivers in recognizing how babies and toddlers may be affected by military separations and relocations, and offer ways to support their young children, as well as themselves, during times of military stress," she said.

The organization's Web site offers extensive information for military families. It features articles by military professionals and parents on topics unique to the military community.

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