Having children or becoming a parent overseas can be tough going when you’re away from your extended family and friends. English-speaking parent groups can be limited, and it can also be daunting receiving health care services abroad. This is where SSAFA’s Community Health Care Team can help.

It operates on British Forces bases from Canada to Kenya, Cyprus to Sennelager, and Brussels to Brunei, supporting families and children living in isolated posts both face-to-face and virtually.

Kerry Riley

Health Visitor Kerry Riley says: “In my role, I’ve noticed families feeling the benefit of support they receive from the SSAFA health visitor, whether that’s a supportive phone call to listen and advise, or through an intervention via video platforms. The availability of the Healthy Child Programme, which promotes health and wellbeing for all children and young people, reduces the impact living in isolation can have on the family’s emotional wellbeing and the child’s development.”

Army spouse Lyndsey went along to a weaning session with her daughter Ava, which Kerry ran in Belgium. She explains: “Kerry put so much thought and effort into the different types of foods that Ava tried and it was so helpful to have a health visitor in person for guidance and to answer questions. I loved that Ava could just get stuck in and practise using her motor skills and enjoyed making a mess. I’d recommend anyone to attend this session, it’s so relaxed and fun. Thank you Kerry!”

Dealing with change

Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) nurse Siobhan Cambridge (main photo) adds that membership of the military community is a unique experience, which provides many great opportunities, but cautions: “Young people can face many challenges.”

Siobhan points out that Year 10 students are identified as the age group where support is often most needed: “From my experience, one of the biggest challenges is the constant change in friendship dynamics – plus living in a small community, not having similar interests to others, bullying, rank systems, direct or indirect experiences of conflict.

“These challenges can impact young people’s mood, emotions, and daily functioning. They can also create feelings of worry, isolation and loneliness.”

In the EJSU areas, the team has been running parenting courses (in person and online) to help those of you in isolated locations to meet other parents in similar situations and learn some useful parenting strategies.

Prepare and participate

In BATUS, Canada, SSAFA Community children’s nurse Essie Atuwo recommends that you do as much research as you can before you go overseas: “Find out what’s available in terms of childcare options, after-school activities, parent/child groups etc.

“Volunteer or get involved in the community you live in or in surrounding communities to help with social isolation,” she says.

“Reach out to your Unit Welfare Officer or health visitor if you’re struggling. They may not have all the answers but will help you find the right agencies to support you.”

Find out more

Join your local SSAFA Facebook group:

  • SSAFA Community Health – Brunei
  • SSAFA Community Health – BATUK
  • SSAFA Community Health – BATUS
  • SSAFA Community Health – British Forces Cyprus
  • SSAFA Health Visiting and School Nursing – Gibraltar
  • SSAFA Health Visiting – EJSU


The eRedbook, an electronic version of the ‘red book’ given to mums when pregnant or on the birth of their baby, is available overseas, so you can access your children’s records wherever you are.

SSAFA encourages all families with children, particularly those under five, to register. You can record your child’s immunisations and developmental milestones, upload health-related documents and access NHS advice.

It also has location-specific information and your SSAFA health visitor can input into your eRedbook remotely.

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