Friday, December 11, 2009

Military Mom: What About the Children

This Blog was submitted by Caroline Innes for WMG.
Tell us what YOU think about
the rights of mothers in the Military.

After working so hard to give women the opportunity to serve their country by being active
In the Military is it coming back to bite us? Consider the following story about the predicament
of a young military mom.

A 21 year old single mother has been separated from her 10 month old infant and confined to Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia. Army cook, Specialist Alexis Hutchinson may face criminal charges after refusing to be deployed to Afghanistan when she couldn't arrange adequate care for her son. Hutchinson originally said her mother would look after the baby while she was away. However, after caring for the infant for two weeks his grandmother felt overwhelmed and said she was not up to the demands of full-time baby care for a year, the length of Hutchinson's deployment.

Angelique Hughes admits she initially agreed to take little Kamani while her daughter was away. But Hughes also cares for her mother and sister, both of whom are ailing as well as another daughter, of her own, with special needs. In addition to all this Hughes runs a daycare center out of her home in which she cares for 14 young children during the day. Hughes says she is at the breaking point and simply cannot take on anymore "This is an infant, and they require 24-hour care. It was very, very stressful, just too much for me to deal with."

Hughes returned Kamani to his mother, Specialist Hutchinson; of Oakland, California a few days before her Nov. 5th scheduled deployment. Hutchinson advised her superiors of the situation and requested a 30-day extension to make other arrangements for child care. Hutchinson said that her commanders originally agreed to the extension, but then something changed. Hutchinson's civilian attorney, Rai Sue Sussman, said that one of Hutchinson's superiors told her she would have to place the baby in foster care and deploy as scheduled.

Kevin Larson, a spokesman for Hunter Army Airfield, said he didn't know what Hutchinson was told by her commanders, but he said the Army would not deploy a single parent who had nobody to care for his or her child.

And yet, the baby did indeed spend time in Child Protective Services. According to Rai Sue Sussman, Hutchinson, with a friend by her side, turned herself in, "The Military Police arrested her and wouldn't let her friend take her child and so they took him away and put him in Child Protective Services" said Sussman Hutchinson is facing a number of charges including AWOL, missing movement, desertion, failing to have a family care plan and disobeying an officer. When Hutchinson's mother heard of this turn of events she immediately flew to Georgia to pick up her grandson and take him back to California with her, where he remains at this time.

Should the Army deploy her to Afghanistan to serve her year of service and then court martial her upon her return, where she could spend as much as a year in a military prison, Hutchinson could potentially not see her son again until he is almost three years old.

It is difficult to discern what the Military's childcare policy actually is. A cursory online review wielded a confusing array of answers.

As stated the Military allows new mothers four months before deploying them to active duty. That's a pretty limited policy and as we're seeing with this particular case points out the obvious shortcomings with respect to a lack of concern for the mothers and children for whom childcare options are limited or unavailable.

It begs the question...What about the children?

(Written by Caroline Innes)

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