Romp ‘N Stomp fair helps prevent child abuse

Laura Dimestico, wife of Petty Officer 1st Class Michael Dimestico, an instructor at the Defense Information School, empties a bag of goodies with her 3-year-old daughter Nora and 18-month-old son Mariner at the Romp ’n Stomp Adventure Fair. (Photo by Lisa R. Rhodes)

A military spouse who just arrived at Fort Meade two weeks ago is feeling a bit stressed. Her husband deployed before she and her three young children moved on post, and her family lives in another state.

Her furniture and many of the family’s personal belongings have not arrived, and her children, who are not yet enrolled in the installation’s day care program, spend their day running around the house. The spouse’s nerves are rattled, but she doesn’t know where to turn for support.

Valerie Green, a parent support coordinator at Fort Meade’s Family Advocacy Program, said the annual Romp ’n Stomp Adventure Fair is aimed at including parents such as this overwhelmed spouse who is feeling isolated.

This year’s event was held Tuesday morning in the Youth Services gym.

“The purpose of the fair is to observe Child Abuse Prevention Month and to get people out the house to know the people in their community,” Green said. “Isolation can lead to child abuse.

“A parent who is under stress and isolated may lash out at their children in ways that they may not ordinarily do if they know people in their community.”

The hourlong fair was open to active-duty service members, retirees, DoD civilians and their families.

The event featured an obstacle course, toy trains, scooters, cars, slides, a play kitchen, face painting and an exercise class led by the staff of My Gym, a local physical fitness company geared to families.

Promoting Family Resiliency

Representatives from Army Community Service, Fort Meade’s Exceptional Family Member Program, Kennedy Krieger Institute, Baltimore Child Abuse Center, Johns Hopkins Medicine and Maryland Kids In Safety Seats attended the fair to distribute flyers and brochures about programs aimed to promote child health and safety and to prevent child abuse.

“The fair promotes family resiliency,” said Brittney Yun, a parent support coordinator for FAP and a victim advocate. “We want to reduce the incidents of child maltreatment, physical abuse and neglect.

“We want to provide education so parents can be proactive in their families,” she said. “A strong military family makes for a strong military.”

Jaime Benson, a licensed psychologist at the Kennedy Kreiger Institute in Odenton, said the institute provides behavioral health services to many military families in the community.

She said the proper professional treatment for children with mental health issues can equip parents with the tools to manage stress in their families and help their children adjust to life’s challenges.

Ericka Leonard, a forensic interviewer with the Baltimore Child Abuse Center, said she was raised in a military family.

“It is especially important to reach out to military families to ensure that they are offered the resources to protect their children,” she said.

In addition to the annual fair, Romp ’n Stomp playgroup, for ages 5 and younger, is offered every Tuesday from 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. at Youth Services., 909 Ernie Pyle St.

Garrison Commander Col. Tom Rickard said the program allows parents and children to have fun and interact in a safe environment.

“It is also a communication network for our spouses and helps parents share lessons learned and resources to support good families,” Rickard said.

Jennifer Shellard, wife of Sgt. Daniel Shellard, came to the fair with her 3-year-old son Kurt.

“We love Romp ’n Stomp. It’s a great way to meet other military spouses and it’s also nap time insurance,” Shellard said.

“By the time he is finished playing with the different cars and tumbling and interacting with the other children and we get home, he is ready to take a nap,” she said. “It’s a blessing for us in the winter time when he can’t play outside.”

Shellard said it is important for the fair to promote the prevention of child abuse.

“It’s reassuring and comforting to know that they are reaching out to military spouses and that the military has programs like these to help parents deal with the stress,” she said. “Military life isn’t easy.”

Editor’s note: For more information about Romp ’n Stomp, call 301-677-4118.

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