KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — At overseas bases, the Air Force is without much of the social services infrastructure used in the United States when dealing with child abuse.

There is no foster care or family court or child protective services.

“There are some challenges out here,” Kadena’s family advocacy officer Capt. Allan Bigtas said.

When an allegation of child abuse is reported, family advocacy looks into the claim and then a committee called the Family Maltreatment Case Management Team reviews the case and votes on whether it’s substantiated.

Family advocacy then makes recommendations about what should be done — counseling, having the child go back to the United States to stay with other family members or moving the non-offending parent and the child into the base’s shelter.

“Our priority is minimizing risk,” Bigtas said.

But the team’s actions are only recommendations. If abuse claims are substantiated, the case is turned over to the Office of Special Investigations and the active-duty parent’s command has the final say on what happens.

Bigtas said people often assume family advocacy is charged with doing more than it actually is.

Some of the options when dealing with child abuse are dependent on the non-offending parent’s willingness to oblige. For example, that parent can refuse to send the child to family in the States.

Eighteenth Services deputy staff judge advocate Maj. Matthew Grant said it’s an open question whether the command has the authority to force an early return of dependents.

Typically in the States, a child abuse case would immediately go to family court, where a judge can order the child be removed from the home.

No such system exists on overseas military bases.

And it’s even more complicated when the abuse involves a civilian parent, because the command has little authority over dependents.

If the civilian parent is the alleged abuser, the command can, however, order the active-duty parent to not allow contact between the child and the civilian parent, Grant said.

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