When Michael Looft left for Iraq, he had a 9-month-old daughter. While he was on deployment in Iraq for 22 months, he missed the birth of his second daughter and major milestones in the young lives of both.
Looft, who works full time for the Minnesota Army National Guard in St. Peter, returned home in 2007 to a family that had been operating without him for almost two years. His wife, Katie, had grown accustomed to parenting alone.
So the transition, they say, was a process. Looft, who has been enlisted since 1999, was accustomed to the much more structured way of life in a military setting. He came home to a family life that was far less structured, Katie said.
“It was a little bumpy,” Katie said. “It was not an easy process.”
Katie said her family could really have benefited from a program that they now are taking part in: a parenting management training model, an intervention system to help families develop parenting skills.
A University of Minnesota team, led by Abigail Gewirtz in the family social science department, modified the program to fit the military experience. The program is called After Deployment: Adaptive Parenting Tools, or ADAPT.
The research project is aimed at teaching and studying parenting skills of military families post-deployment, helping to reintegrate the military mom or dad back into family life.
More than 400 families in Minnesota are taking part — including various southern Minnesota families — and data collection is under way.
Six years ago, the Loofts found their own ways to readjust. But they wanted to take part in the study now to both reaffirm their parenting and communication skills, as well as support research that will be able to help numerous families who go through what they did.
“We were on our own to kind of readjust to civilian life,” Katie said.