The Army first observed the Month of the Military Child in 1986 to honor the youngest members of the Army community. Twenty-five years later, recognition of the sacrifices and strength of our military children is more vital than ever.
The life of military children has always had its challenges, foremost among them frequent relocations. Every time families move, children have to make new friends, get used to new schools, and find new clubs and teams to join.
In this time of persistent conflict, the challenges are compounded. About 1.8 million children have a parent currently serving in the military. Since 2001, an estimated 900,000 children have had one or both parents deploy multiple times.
Our children are dealing with long and repeated separations from their parents. They are dealing with the happy but disruptive time when their parents come home and the family has to regain normalcy. Sometimes they have to deal with the worst thing children can imagine: the death of a parent. In the face of all this, our children need and deserve our best efforts.
The Army has committed to providing families with a quality of life that is commensurate with their service and sacrifice. For our children, that includes a commitment to ensure excellence in schools, child care and youth services.
Army Child, Youth and School Services is central to delivering on these promises.
CYS Services currently serves almost 300,000 children ages 6 weeks to 18 years in on- and off-post programs around the world. Through its child development centers, school age care, and middle school and teen programs, CYS Services provides healthy and enriching environments that help children grow mentally, physically, socially and emotionally. In addition, CYS Services runs a robust sports program with more than 112,000 children participating in team and individual sports and sports clinics.
On installations in the States and overseas, CYS Services has constructed 150 child care and 24 youth centers since 2007.
CYS Services extends 16 hours of free care per month to the families of deployed Soldiers, wounded warriors and fallen Soldiers, a total of more than 1.08 million hours in fiscal year 2010.
When parents can take advantage of CYS Services, it decreases stress on the family. Parents know when they are deployed, working or at medical appointments, that their children are in a safe place with much-needed support.
In addition to providing quality out-of-school programs, CYS Services is also focusing on supporting military children in school. Military children attend on average nine different schools before they graduate high school. It can be tough for students to settle in with the stress of being the new kid again, the fear of separation or the disappointment that their mom or dad is missing another game or recital.
School Liaison Officers are located at every garrison to help families with school-related issues like these. They play an important role in helping students make a smooth transition and succeed at their new school.
During the Month of the Military Child observance in April, installations worldwide are holding hundreds of fairs, parades, carnivals and other events. I encourage you to join in honoring and celebrating our children.
However, the Army does not confine its commitment to children to one month a year — we owe our children more than that. They do not sign up for the challenges military life brings, and yet they are right in there with us, making sacrifices every day and showing a lot of bravery. It’s our job to do the best by them that we can, providing the care, support and opportunities they need to thrive in the face of challenges.