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US military moms stressed and need help

2008-09-24 09:45

    Mothers in the US military are stressed, poorly paid and need more help caring for their children, according to a report issued by Congress on Friday.

    Nearly half of all women in the active-duty military have been deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan, and 24,475 women are there now, the report by the Joint Economic Committee said.

    Yet child care services are not keeping up with longer and more frequent deployments, said the report, released to coincide with Mothers' Day in the United States on Sunday.

    Moreover, women get only 6 weeks of leave after the birth of a child, it found.

    "Making sure military mothers have the quality child care, generous family leave, and access to mental health services they need is key to their family well-being and our national security," New York Democratic Rep. Carolyn Maloney said in a statement.

    "Not addressing these issues could have serious implications for the retention of women in the military, and the readiness and effectiveness of our forces."

    The Joint Economic Committee, a bipartisan group of senators and members of the House of Representatives, used Defense Department figures for much of the report.

    It said that women represent one in seven US military personnel in Iraq, and that most are in the lowest-paid ranks.

    Women make up about 14.3 percent of the active-duty military, according to the report, and about 40 percent of women in the active-duty force have children compared with 44 percent of active-duty men.

    However, military women are much more likely to be single or divorced, or married to other members of the military who also face deployment.

    That leaves grandparents, other relatives or paid caregivers to take care of young children when parents are deployed or redeployed.

    The report, available on the Internet said the military may be stretched to recruit and retain women if it does not provide better services.

    "The military has increased the number of available child care centers, but the National Military Families Association estimates that the military is approximately 35,000 short of expected need," it said.

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