“What we gained from this experience is the realization that we are resilient,” Monique Russell, manager of the Fort Hood Family Advocacy Program, said regarding the operational changes in light of the social distancing protocols.

Russell, who stepped into the new position two months ago, said the program is designed to support the readiness and wellbeing of Soldiers, dependents, retirees and Department of Defense civilians by trying to prevent Soldier, spouse and child abuse. Normally, they provide assistance through classes, home visits and reporting lines, but social distancing has challenged them to think outside the box.

“Having nearly the entire staff sent to work from home has been challenging, but I am so proud of how hard everyone is working.” Russell said. “Despite lack of preparation, despite lack of digital resources our staff is still able to deliver training, marriage preparation workshops, victim advocacy services and parent education.”

While adjusting its methods, the FAP is providing both commander and unit training virtually on FAP policies and reporting procedures, as well as the signs and symptoms of domestic violence and child abuse. The educators also offer virtual stress and anger management classes, and relationship courses.

“There was little to no established digital footprint. Our educators were learning in real time how to navigate Microsoft Teams to deliver command trainings. So far, we have gotten a very positive response from commanders and unit members,” she said. “We are getting requests to schedule training daily.”

For new parents, the program offers a New Parent Support Program class, which is designed to prevent unsafe sleep deaths and shaken baby syndrome. They also offer an infant massage class, designed to relax a baby, allow the parent to learn how to respond to a baby’s non-verbal cues and  deepen the bond between parent and child.

One particularly challenging aspect of the social distancing is how victims connect with Domestic Assault Victim Advocates. They normally meet face-to-face, but are currently restricted to phone or virtual platforms.

“This can be particularly challenging for the DAVAs as they are working with abuse victims and are at times called when individuals are most vulnerable,” Russell explained. “Delivering services using technology can make it difficult to communicate warmth.”

While a phone call or virtual meeting doesn’t allow people to share the same personal connection, Russell said she wants her clients to know they care and are “highly committed” to provide the empathy and support people need, despite social distancing.

The Fort Hood FAP also offers confidential reporting options to victims of abuse. Fort Hood’s 24-hour Care Line, 254-287-CARE (2273), allows anyone to report domestic or child abuse. Russell said the services are free, confidential and they are able to provide information on safety planning, protective orders and a host of other services available both on and off the installation.

She said the Care Line has recorded a 50% increase in calls since COVID-19, but said it’s important to note that not all calls involve abuse or neglect. She said it is still important to look for signs of abuse, not matter the rank or status of a person.

“The most important thing for our community members to remember is that abuse is usually well hidden but can affect families from all walks of life,” Russell said. “If abuse or neglect is suspected the safest thing to do is to file a confidential report using the Care Line, 254-287-CARE (2273).”

For someone wanting to make an appointment to speak with a DAVA, schedule a class or for other questions, call 254-702-4953.

For more information from Military OneSource, visit https://www.militaryonesource.mil/family-relationships/family-life/preventing-abuse-neglect/how-to-help-service-connected-victims-of-domestic-abuse.