Having a new baby can be a challenge on its own, and military families endure added stress, including:
- Increased distance from extended family
- Frequent moves
- Frequent separations due to military operations
To help new parents make the transition successfully, the military developed the New Parent Support Program. The program helps military parents, including expectant parents, provide a nurturing environment for their children. Overall, the program provides support and guidance by helping parents:
- Build strong, healthy bonds with their infants and toddlers that will lay the foundation for their social and emotional development
- Manage the demands of parenting, especially when impacted by deployments and other military operations
- Remain flexible and responsive when navigating daily life
- Build a strong support network
- Respond to infant and toddler behavior sensitively and be attuned to their developmental needs
- Find concrete services in the local community in time of need
Types of services provided
The New Parent Support Program home visitors assess the strengths and needs of participating families with a variety of tools to understand a family's unique environment. Most participating families use only the basic services, including:
- Parenting basics
- Resource materials
- Visits with a home visitor
On occasion, families may be struggling with high stress, multiple challenges related to military operations, fewer parenting skills or social isolation. These families may qualify for a higher priority or intensive services. What classifies as an intensive service varies from one installation to another, but it generally refers to:
- Frequent (more than three) home visits
- Formal engagement with other support agencies
- Follow-up by a provider in the Family Advocacy Program
The New Parent Support Program's staff consists of nurses, social workers or home visitation specialists, and is supervised and monitored at the installation level by the Family Advocacy program manager. The program focuses on providing one-on-one support for new and expectant parents through home visits, but some installations may offer parenting classes and groups. Services vary by service branch and by installation, but they can include:
- Home visits — As a new parent, you may feel more comfortable asking questions and expressing your concerns about parenthood, including sleep, nutrition, behavior management, breastfeeding and other concerns in the privacy of your own home.
- Referrals to other resources — Home visitors can help you find and take advantage of additional services offered through the military health care system, your installation or the local community that best suit your needs.
- Prenatal classes — Prenatal classes help parents know what to expect when the baby comes home from the hospital. Topics include feeding and nutrition, bathing and preventative health care.
- Parenting classes — Hands-on classes for both parents of infants and toddlers focus on a variety of parenting issues, ranging from discipline to feeding. Classes for new fathers help them adjust to life with a new baby and support them to be an active parent.
- Playgroups — Structured activities in program play groups help children improve their social and motor skills. The playgroups also help new parents get to know one another and develop a support system within the military community.
Anything you share with a program staff member is confidential, including health-related information (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act protects that). Feel free to discuss personal issues with the staff so that they can better help you with your parenting concerns.
There is one exception to confidentiality: The registered nurses and licensed social workers of the New Parent Support Program are obligated to report maltreatment or suspicion that you may harm yourself or others under the duty to warn.
Eligibility and enrollment
The New Parent Support Program's services are free to active-duty service members and their families who meet one of the following criteria:
- Expecting their first child
- Have at least one child younger than 3 years old (Army, Navy and Air Force)
- Have at least one child younger than 5 years old (Marine Corps)
Service members who have separated from active duty may still be eligible for the program depending on the nature of the separation. If you have access to a military treatment facility, you may be entitled to program benefits on a space-available basis.
If you would like to participate in the program, you can enroll through your installation's:
- Family Advocacy Program
- Military and Family Support Center
To find the program nearest you, go to the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS locator and select New Parent Support Program from the drop-down menu of programs and services.
If you don't live near a military installation, there are similar programs for new parents available in many locations. You can find new parent support programs by:
- Asking your pediatrician for help finding a support program for new parents
- Calling Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 for more information
- Visiting Military OneSource non-medical counseling page for information about free, confidential non-medical counseling sessions
- Locating additional resources about parenting and childcare on the Military OneSource website
All parents need support — it's a tough and fulfilling job that's even better when it's shared. Reach out for support today.