The experiences of military-connected youth are distinct in many ways from children in civilian families, as described in 5 Things to Know about Military-Connected Youth. Specific challenges may come in the form of frequent moves and dealing with separation from a parent during training or deployment. Though military-connected youth are resilient, states and communities often provide mentoring and other family-support services to address the needs of these youth and their families.
The state of Texas has the third largest active duty military population in the United States (nearly 117,000 personnel), representing over 10 percent of active duty forces in the U.S. Additionally, nearly 1.7 million veterans, and 53,000 Selected Reserve members live in Texas.[2,3] To serve the state’s military children and families, the Prevention and Early Intervention (PEI) Division of the Texas Department of Family Protective Services launched the Military Families and Veterans Prevention Program (MVP) to provide a range of support services to the three largest military communities in Texas, home to more than three-quarters of Texas’ active duty members.
The MVP program serves families with children up to 17 years of age at Fort Hood in Bell County, Joint Base San Antonio in Bexar County, and Fort Bliss in El Paso County and specifically aims to prevent child abuse and neglect. Contractors in these communities provide a range of services to military families, including parenting programs, case management, and mentoring, among others.
In their assessment of community needs, organizations contracting with PEI to deliver MVP services identified a need for mentoring and other services targeted toward military-connected youth. Mentors can be a way for youth to connect to someone else in their community and be a source of support. Additionally, mentoring programs can also be of service to military or military-connected parents. Mentors can provide activities for children, provide respite care, and assist youth with school projects.
In El Paso and Bexar Counties, Big Brothers Big Sisters matches military-connected youth to mentors in the community. In Bell County, Boys & Girls Clubs of Central Texas serve middle and high school youth with a variety of services such as counseling, educational, and recreational programs and activities. In addition to the benefits of mentoring, mentors can also help identify additional needs of military-connected youth and their families. Mentoring programs often cannot address all of the needs of military-connected youth; however, because youth are connected to MVP programs, mentors and program staff can connect them to partner agencies within the community to ensure their needs are met.
The MVP program indirectly supports military-connected youth by providing services to their parents and by promoting positive parental involvement in children’s lives.
The program aims to educate, facilitate, and support parents’ abilities to provide continued emotional, physical, and financial support to their families. Positive parenting practices (e.g., parental support, monitoring, avoiding harsh punishment) are associated with positive child outcomes, such as better adjustment, higher self-esteem, higher grades, fewer behavior problems, and lower reports of deviance among school-age children. Even if programs target parents of young children, parents may be able to use the skills they develop for years into the future or to help parent older children.
Military-connected youth grow up with both challenges and opportunities distinct from the experiences of children in civilian families. These youth face difficulties associated with frequent moves and separation from a parent due to deployment or training. However, military-connected youth are also resilient and benefit from the opportunities military life provides to them. Services provided by MVP in Texas aim to support and address the needs of these youth and their families by providing mentoring and other family-support services.Citations