Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Army Care Teams

As many of you know I do a lot of volunteer work around our installation. I teach a lot of classes. All are geared to the different programs in the Army. One in particular that I teach is Care Team Training. I mentioned in a tweet a few weeks ago that I was doing Care Team and was asked by another MilSpouse what that was. I know it's been a while but I finally have a moment to sit and explain.

First off I want to say that a Care Team is not part of the Family Readiness Group (FRG). While many of the same people will likely volunteer for both, they are two completely different entities.

The Army's explanation of a Care Team: The purpose of the Care Team is to offer short-term care and support to families of deceased and seriously wounded Soldiers until the family’s own support structure is in place. I will add that while that is the primary focus, Care Teams are also there on the Spouse side of the house as well.

While the concept of taking care of own isn't new, we've been doing it for generations, the Army recognized the need to offer some type of guidance when our OPTEMPO changed with the Global War on Terror (GWOT). As we all know when we live a Military lifestyle, most of us don't take our extended family with us so in crisis situations such as death or injury, our support system may be hours away. A Care Team offers short term care until that support system can get there. Every Care Team will look slightly different dependent on the needs of the families. I have served on a few Care Teams and each situation was very unique.

So what kind of support does a Care Team offer? As I mentioned earlier the idea is to offer short term help. A Care Team is notified AFTER the official notification. A Care Team is NEVER part of the notification process. The team will only go in AFTER the notification and with the approval of the family. They will not force their way in. Care Teams are small in number so as not to overwhelm the family during an already stressful time. Taking care of children while official business needs to be done. Maybe transporting kids back and forth. Helping with meals, groceries, pet sitting/walking. Someone might be asked to man the phone and to take messages. Someone else might be tagged to keep track of visitors. There are a variety of ways to help without being too intrusive.

While there are many things that these members can do, there are many things they shouldn't. They shouldn't help plan a funeral, talk about benefits, help in any way financially.

The team is there to offer a support system, not to be counselors or gossips. Confidentiality and privacy is SO important.

This can be a tough role to fill and that is why they offer training. It's hard to talk about this situation because no one wants to think about it. Sometimes giving the training can be hard and emotional. As each student leaves I hope it's something they never have to use. I've been on Care Teams and I've hated why I had the opportunity to serve yet at the same time have been honored to help someone in their greatest time of need. It can be difficult because in most cases the volunteers are living the same life, their Soldier may be down range and it's hard not to think "that could be me".

I've tried to explain what a Care Team is and I don't know if our other Military branches have something similar so I didn't expand outside the Army. I hope this gave some insight. If you want to know more contact your local Army Community Services and see about training. Even if at the end of the day you walk out saying you couldn't do it, at least you have the knowledge. there is no judgment on those who decide they can't do it.

I truly hope for the day where training such as this is no longer needed but until that day comes I am glad to help our Army families gain the tools to help our own.


USMCWIFE said...

Interesting. We don't have anything like that on the Marine side of the house but honestly I don't know where we would need it. I know like you we have a CACO that handles all the things you can not like notification..etc. We have a volunteer network and if needed and or requested will be utilized in these cases. I think for us it would be too redundant. It sounds like a great idea but I think we already have those concepts in our family readiness. Our company levels are so tight as a unit that I have never seen anything lacking as far as sorrounding the family of the fallen/wounded with support. The Army is so much bigger then the Marine Corps so I think it's a great idea. One thing I would like to see that we don't have is the conference you keep talking far as I know that doesn't cover the volunteer but only the Civilian Family Readiness Officer. Again, we are small and I know money is always the reason we don't get to do a lot of things. The Army is so lucky to have you Nadine!

TheAlbrechtSquad said...

I can see where you would feel it is redundant. The main reason they have an official name for what Military Families have been doing for a long time is to help those who step in those roles. To give them training and tools to better serve our families. It also eliminates those who want to simple ride the tragedy train. It's sad but I've seen it, people who are involved for the wrong reasons.

Ultimately the needs of the families are taken into consideration and they dictate the level of support. A Care Team is there to help logistically for a short amount of time. If a family wants their unit friends then certainly that would trump all things.

The official Care Teams and the training for it offers our volunteers (those who choose to be involved and have the sincere desire to help) tools to be more effective in taking care of our Families and also in taking care of themselves.