BOSTON – Primary Care clinicians in Massachusetts have a valuable new tool to help them spot signs of emotional difficulties in military-connected children and families. The Toolkit for the Well-Child Screening of Military Children is presented on-line as a public service by the Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program and the Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP). It is designed to help pediatricians and other clinicians identify and address the signs of deployment-related stress among children and families.
Currently, more than 13,000 Massachusetts children have one parent serving in the military, including the Massachusetts National Guard and Reserve. Thousands more children have a parent or sibling who has been deployed to Active Duty during the past 10 years as part of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Because Massachusetts has a large contingency of National Guard and Reserves – and no central base -- military-connected children are often invisible in civilian communities. They may be the only child in their school who has a parent or a sibling who is among the 1% who serve.
“There is a saying in the military – when one family member serves, the entire family serves. Many families have experienced multiple deployments over the past ten years, and while military families are known for their resiliency, having a loved-one absent and in harm’s way for repeated periods of time puts tremendous strain on children and families. With strong family and community support, over the long run, most military children weather the stress of separation from their mother or father, but some children don’t, and it is imperative that pediatricians and other family caregivers are vigilant to signs of trouble,” said Paula Rauch, MD, an MGH child psychiatrist who is Program Director of the Home Base Family Support Team.
“As a primary support to children from infancy through high school, pediatricians and other primary care clinicians are in a unique position to monitor and promote the resilience of our military children. We hope that all family caregivers can use this Tool Kit to convey their sensitivity to the needs of military families, and to raise awareness among civilian families of the needs of military-connected children in their community. Our military families need and deserve our support,” said John Straus, MD, Vice President of Medical Affairs, Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project.
The Toolkit provides materials to: screen children and youth for deployment stress; determine the level of support required; provide information to parents; and request a consultation from MCPAP. All materials are available on line at www.homebaseprogram.org and www.mcpap.org, and can be adapted for use in any practice. Home Base and MCPAP have distributed the Tool Kit to more than 400 primary care practices which provide care for 1.5 million children in Massachusetts.
The Red Sox Foundation and Massachusetts General Hospital Home Base Program provides: clinical care and support services to Service Members, Veterans and Families affected by combat or deployment-related stress and traumatic brain injury (TBI); community education about the “invisible wounds of war”; and research in the understanding and treatment of PTSD and TBI.
The Massachusetts Child Psychiatry Access Project (MCPAP) is a system of regional children's mental health consultation teams designed to help primary care providers (PCPs) meet the needs of children with psychiatric problems.