EPC providers offer safe haven for children during times of crisis

Holding Hands child parent relationshipBy Robyn Mack
USAG Stuttgart Public Affairs

Emergency Placement Care offers Department of Defense military and civilian children overseas with temporary supportive, secure, and nurturing homes with volunteer providers when a situation arises where children must be removed from their parent or legal guardian’s household.

“Wonderful families in our community volunteer to open their homes as a resource to us, and as a comfort to the affected children,” said Rita Goldstein, U.S. Army Garrison’s Army Community Service Family Advocacy Program manager.

“We are all away from our core family units, so there is reassurance that members of our own community have stepped up, above and beyond, to consider others as their own family,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Troy Alexander, U.S. Africa Command commandant, who has worked closely with the program as a leader and advocate. “At times, there are incidents such as a sudden illness or hospitalization, death, or in some cases incidents that warrant a review of a child’s safety in the home. The Emergency Placement Care program gives the assurance that we as leaders have viable solutions if needed.”

Children aged infant to 18-years-old may be placed in a provider home based on recommendations from clinical and family counseling professionals when they have been exposed to situations like domestic violence, child abuse, or neglect.

EPC is a short-term emergency placement which can last up to 90 days. “But more commonly it’s only for a few days,” said Goldstein.

During that time providers take on the role of parent, she said. “Meals, diapering, school, transportation, and doctor’s appointments – all of that comes with being a provider. We want the child to continue their normal life. Children cope better when their routine is in place. Sometimes that’s the one thing they still have control over.”

Providers go through a lengthy clearance process which includes training, home inspection, and unique lessons centered on empathy and sensitivity for the child’s experience.

“Providers put in a lot of effort to serve,” Goldstein said. “They make a community investment that is what you’d hope and expect for your own children.”

“It’s comforting to know that the vetting and training program is extensive, and those that get qualified are fully committed to helping children through a temporary tough time of uncertainty until a safe, permanent solution is found,” Alexander added. “In my opinion, this care for one another in our military community, and the fact we all share common values, helps me to work harder and mentally be prepared for whatever may come.”

Goldstein said the Stuttgart community is always looking for new providers to add to their available cadre. “With more members, we have more options, and are better able to find the right environment for a child’s needs.”

“Even if a family is unable to help by being an EPC family, they can still help by advocating to others the program and helping actively recruit those that may be in a situation to help,” Alexander said.

Any DoD ID card holder over the age of 21 can volunteer with EPC. Interested participants do not need to married.

To find out more about becoming an EPC provider, an Open House will take place from noon to 1 p.m., Jan. 25 at ACS in Building 2915 on Panzer Kaserne. For more information and to register, call DSN: 431-3518/civ. 07031-15-3518.