Family Advocacy: A place to turn to for help|
by Airman 1st Class Jessica Keith
17th Training Wing Public Affairs
7/31/2012 - GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas-- -- For people struggling at home, the Family Advocacy program can be a place to turn to for help.
The primary focus of the program is to educate service members and their families on a variety of topics ranging from the birth of a child, to keeping personal relationships strong and preventing spousal and child abuse.
Some of the program's functions include investigating allegations of abuse, but they also provide information to couples on what kinds of actions constitute abuse according to Defense Department guidelines.
Karen Bartholomeo, 17th Medical Group Family Advocacy Outreach Manager, said she is often asked what the DoD definition of child abuse is.
"The parents often want to know if spanking counts as child abuse," she said. "According to the DoD, spanking is not abuse unless marks are left. Parents have the right to spank their child but using enough force to leave whelps, cuts or bruises is abuse."
Other common questions include wanting to know how old children must be before they can be left alone for short periods of time and whether or not a child can supervise another child.
Rosa Thompson, 17th Medical Group Family Advocacy Treatment Manager, said it is very important for people to know asking these kinds of questions is not a bad thing.
"The main focus of our job is to prevent abuse through education," Thompson added. "Asking questions is a good thing, especially for first-time parents. It is a parent's responsibility to know where the lines are and we are here to provide just that kind of information."
They also offer classes designed for couples who are expecting a child.
"We offer a variety of classes for new parents, whether it's their first child or fifth," Bartholomeo said.
One very popular class is called Baby Basics Bootcamp for Dads. The class, which is taught by dads, helps dads bond with their children more, even before the child is born by teaching them pre-natal games such as gently tapping the mom's belly or using a flashlight to interact with the child.
"Mothers tend to get a lot of attention during and right after pregnancy, which of course makes perfect sense," Bartholomeo added. "New dads have a lot to learn to and that's what this class is all about."
The program also offers help for couples who don't have children.
"No marriage is perfect," Thompson said. "Every relationship has its problems and we want to help with that. Coming to us doesn't mean a relationship is abusive, it just means the couple wants to make their relationship stronger."
Also responsible for investigating allegations of family abuse, Family Advocacy provides services for those who are abused, military or civilian.
A person can go to Family Advocacy using restricted or unrestricted reporting. Restricted reporting is a way for the abused person to receive help and medical treatment without a report being filed. Unrestricted reporting allows for agencies to do a thorough investigation into the allegations.
"If you are not comfortable coming to Family Advocacy, please go to someone," Bartholomeo said. "No one should have to suffer from domestic abuse. The Chapel, the Medical Group and your chain-of-command are always options. If you are being abused get help."