Home to two military bases, Onslow County boasts a large military population. In fact, more than 140,000 active duty and military family members reside in the community at any given time. While April is designated as Month of the Military Child, in Onslow County, we celebrate military children (and their families) every day.
At One Place, we are honored to provide services and resources to those who proudly serve our country and we are always looking for additional opportunities to support military children and families in our community.
During our last fiscal year, almost 40 percent of children participating in our preschool programs were military dependents, 28 percent of families receiving resource and referral services were affiliated with the military, and an average of 15 percent of children enrolled in our Early Head Start programs are part of military families.
Early Head Start is available to pregnant mothers, infants, and toddlers until age 3. At One Place, there are two program options: Home-Based and Center-Based services. EHS combines parent involvement, education, health, and social-emotional wellness services (including for women before, during, and after pregnancy), and services to children with disabilities.
The Vermillion family of Jacksonville enrolled with Early Head Start in January. Larry, an active duty Marine, and his wife Lyca, have two sons, 3-year-old Larry and 2-year-old William. William is enrolled in the center-based program option at Excel 10.
“I really think that my son enjoys going. He can communicate with other kids his age and he’s learning a lot,” she said. “He looks forward to going. He sees (the teachers) and he’s happy.”
Before starting with EHS, Lyca said William did not enjoy coloring – instead he preferred to eat the crayons (she said with a laugh).
“His teacher tells me that he’s doing great at coloring and all that stuff,” Lyca said. “They give me paintings of his work to bring home and I see him excelling.”
The family also participated in the home-based program option.
“I enjoyed it. The home visitor brought stuff and activities for them to do and I could tell my kids engaged in it and they both really liked what they brought,” Lyca said. “We were working on a goal to help my oldest son talk more and he started talking a lot more ever since (the home visitor) came by. She would come teach him stuff and read a book to him.”
In addition, the Vermillion boys both receive monthly books through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, a program that provides free books to children in Onslow County until their 5th birthday in collaboration with One Place.
“As soon as I get (the book) and open it, we read it right away,” Lyca said. “They have a big collection of books now in their library in the playroom.”
Lyca said the books they have received through DPIL have encouraged both boys to read more.
“I tell (Larry) to go pick out a book he wants to read he picks out what he wants to read and sometimes he will point out the pictures and tell me what this is and what that is,” she said.
While One Place has an abundance of programs and resources available to the community – military families included – one resource that is specific to military families is the Navy’s Exceptional Family Member Program Respite Care.
The Navy’s EFMP Respite Care helps military families with children with special needs by providing 40 hours of respite care per month so they can leave the house, go to an appointment, or just rest, while knowing their child is well cared for. The service is no cost to eligible families. One Place oversees the Navy’s program in collaboration with EFMP.
The Brown family, who was at one time a dual active-duty Navy family in Onslow County, has been involved with EFMP respite care for about 10 years. They have two children, Amir 15, and Zaria 13. Amir has Sickle Cell Anemia.
“It was the best blessing. I was going to school, driving to UNCW and my husband was still active duty and it was just a lot but it was very helpful and it was a really simple process,” said Khamisha Brown. “I definitely am very appreciative of all of the services that have been provided for us. We didn’t have to worry about our kids and we could have a date night, or go to the ball, or I can go to school or be upstairs doing classwork knowing my kids were taken care of.”
Having a trained respite provider truly put Khamisha’s mind at ease and removed the fear of leaving the children in someone else’s hands.
“It was peace of mind, knowing that they were taken care of and they were ok. Especially Amir with his different medications,” she said. “And as new medications were introduced knowing we could sit down and talk with (our provider) and let her know what to look for when something was off and she would understand.”
The unexpected bonus? The strong bond that both Brown children developed with the family’s respite care provider.
“Surprisingly both my kids developed a serious relationship with (our provider) and loved her tremendously. She became kind of like a confidant for them,” Khamisha said. “It’s always good to have another adult who can be there for your children who is a trusted adult they can go to. It was a surprise and I didn’t expect that and it was definitely a blessing to our family.”
From Early Head Start, and EFMP Respite Care, to NC Pre-K, Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library, and more, One Place offers a variety of programs for children and families in Onslow County and aims to serve as a connector for military families who are far away from loved ones.
“I think (One Place is) really helpful for the parents and the kids,” Lyca said. “I really do suggest people look into it because from my experience my kids are learning a lot and for me I really like that my kids can go to school and interact with other kids…I don’t have any family here and it’s helpful that my kids can interact with other kids and that’s important to me.”
While Onslow County has a substantial population, Khamisha Brown said things are still “rural” which can be difficult for military families, making One Place programs and services that much more valuable.
“There are military transplants from a larger area who are used to resource availability – larger libraries, more opportunities for their kids to just do things and be around peers, we don’t have that here,” she said. “The resources that One Place provides help you acclimate to the area and help your children’s development. The books through Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library and the other things out there can help your children develop and become their best selves, as well as the things that give you peace of mind knowing your children are safe and comfortable. You realize you’re not alone when you get here and there are other people here to help.”
Click here for more information on programs and resources available through One Place.
Click here for a collection of Military Family Resources.
Click here for more information on the Navy’s EFMP Respite Care.