Karen Church understands the challenges of the Army spouse, military child and veteran – because she is all three.
Church took over as Army Community Service’s New Parent Support Program coordinator in November and since that time, has enjoyed getting to know the children of Redstone – and assisting their moms and dads in one of the most important jobs of their lives, parenthood.
“What I want to accomplish is to provide new, fun activities for families and to support the military family here at Redstone by helping them with transitions, such as deployments, the birth of a child, or relocation,” Church said.
Church, a Navy brat, was no stranger to the military lifestyle before enlisting in the Army. But while military service was a family tradition, what Church really wanted to do was become a nurse. After leaving the Army, Church fulfilled that lifelong dream and obtained her registered nursing license from Grand Canyon University and started her new career in the Mother Baby Unit at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where her husband James was stationed. Her combination of professional experience and personal understanding of military life has brought a unique perspective to her current role.
“I can empathize with a lot of these families,” she said.
In her role as New Parent Support coordinator, Church travels across Madison County to visit parents in their homes and provide baby bundles, information, resources and sometimes just an ear to listen. She is a welcome presence in the lives of her clients, many of whom are far from home and without the local support of family to help them navigate new parenthood.
Church also oversees the ChildWise program, which opened its new facility in November at 3467 Vincent Road. The ChildWise program supports healthy parent and child development through interactive playgroups and focuses on socialization with other children of their own age, play with age-appropriate toys and arts and crafts activities with his or her parent or guardian. The facility also hosts Church’s parenting classes and lactation consultations that she offers as part of her New Parent Support role.
Church’s job is definitely not of the nine-to-five variety and she said the needed flexibility can be challenging. But being an Army spouse has taught her that adjustability. Sometimes her advice for parents is simple, in Church’s view, but paramount to successful parenting. Besides the medical instruction and behavioral information, she is there to help new parents see the bright side and good in a situation – even when a baby is crying or a parent is operating on one hour of sleep.
“I help them look at the positive, which is the key to a lot of things,” Church said. “It is all positive, it is all good.”
The New Parent Support Program is available for active duty, reservists and military retiree parents of children up to age 3. ChildWise serves children 5 and under with parents who have access to Redstone Arsenal. For more information, email Church at firstname.lastname@example.org.