News: ACS 'Kids Chat' opens new avenues of communication for children
Story by Spc. Nathan Thome
FORT CARSON, Colo. – The Fort Carson Army Community Service, Family Advocate Program, held a “Kids Chat” session as part of their Family Violence Prevention Plan at the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division Headquarters building, Aug. 24, to help military children open up about their feelings and to hear the concerns of deployed parents. ACS’s FVPP is currently a working group and is in the process of becoming an official service provided by the FAP.
Kids Chat was developed to attack the problem of domestic and family violence at Fort Carson, said Jill Nugin, manager, FAP, Fort Carson ACS.
“The family violence task force was developed a year ago because of a significant increase in infant deaths in El Paso County…the community put this working group together to address what we could do to reduce the impact of child abuse,” said Nugin.
Victim advocates and project managers, the volunteers for Kids Chat, divided the kids into three age groups: 3 to 5 years old, 6 to 10 years old, and 11 to 16 years old. Adults also participated in the service; they gathered in a separate room and addressed concerns about their spouses returning from deployment.
“Kids Chat speaks to family resilience and making families stronger and happier,” said Nugin.
Toddlers and the slightly younger kids drew pictures, completed puzzles and participated in story time, where the volunteers read stories to their group.
“These types of activities help nurture our children,” said Sgt. Brandie Senior, ACS operations, ACS. “Children don’t know how to communicate like adults, so integrating games helps them to open up and communicate their feelings and emotions.”
Children from each age group showed their enthusiasm for the service through their openness with the volunteers. Children from all three age groups talked about their home lives and concerns about when their parents return from deployment.
“One of the things I miss most about my dad is spending time with him,” said Evan Burciaga, 13. “When he was home, he would take me to the gun show, but since he deployed, I miss the time we would spend together.”
Children in the middle group spent their time making Halloween-style picture frames for Family photos, while talking about their parents and how they felt about their parents’ deployment.
“We developed this program because, when the war first started, kids didn’t have a good place to talk about their dads deploying or coming home,” said Nugin.
This service is offered whenever kids are faced with a parent deploying, said Nugin.
In the teen’s group of Kids Chat, they colored, made bead jewelry and participated in an opening-up exercise. They could choose between 14 strips of green paper, each containing a question.
Each teen answered their question, opening up about their lives at home and how their parent’s deployment has affected their roles in the family.
“Since my dad has left, I can do things that I haven’t done before when he was here,” said Jason Griego, 14. “I just feel like I’m a bigger person, like I have matured and become more independent.”
As each group wrapped up their session, they all gathered in the 4th BCT HQ common area to mingle and eat ice cream. Kids from each group spoke with each other about what they learned from the service and how it helped them cope with their parents being deployed.
“Kids Chat is a great social-networking environment for our children because they get to be creative and play with adults and other children,” said Senior. “The kids light up when you give them that one-on-one attention, making them feel special.”
For more information on Fort Carson ACS, Family Advocacy and Family Violence Prevention Programs, call 719-526-4590, or visit http://community.carson.army.mil/ACS.