FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- Army Families deal with unique challenges associated with military life, especially when it comes to relocation. Not only do they have to find a new place to call home, they also have to find new health care and child care providers, enroll children in new schools and activities and build new networks of friends and support.

These challenges are not easy for any Army Family, but for families with special needs, they are magnified. That's why the Exceptional Family Member Program is available to help. EFMP is managed through Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command, is a comprehensive, coordinated program that provides community support, educational, medical, housing and personnel services to Army families with special needs.

"The primary purpose of the Exceptional Family Member Program is to ensure that the service member gets stationed at an installation where the needs of that family member can be met," said Audrey Peterson-Hosto, EFMP manager.

That's why Soldiers with Family members who have special needs are required to enroll in EFMP, so that the needs can be considered during the nominative phase of the military personnel assignment process. Some Soldiers may be reluctant to identify Family members for this program. They may feel that identifying with the program will adversely affect their career.

This is simply not true. The whole idea of EFMP is to ensure the Soldiers' duty station and or surrounding community can provide services to their Family member with special needs. Peterson-Hosto adds EFMP managers want to ensure the Family is provided for.

"We have information on agencies within the community and you know we try to ensure that the specific needs of the family are met to the best of our ability," Peterson-Hosto added.

It is also important for Soldiers and their families to know the Army's EFMP does more than provide information for assignment decisions.

The EFMP is one way to keep some of the most important promises articulated in the Army Family Covenant: providing access to high-quality medical care, educational opportunities and family programs that foster an environment in which Families can thrive.

EFMP is currently serving 16 percent of all Army Families, or more than 70,000 registered Family members. Approximately 725 Family members on Fort Huachuca are enrolled in the program. The program has provided critical support to Families since its start in 1979. Over the last 30 years, through initiatives such as the Army Family Covenant, the Army's commitment and promises to Families have become more defined.

At the same time, the number of on- and off-post programs and services available to Families with special needs have increased and become more diverse. As a result of the Army Family Covenant promises and the greater array of programs to manage or coordinate with, we are committed to continually seek new ways to enhance our EFMP support to Families.

An EFMP coordinating committee meets quarterly on post to discuss the needs of those with special needs on Fort Huachuca. The third Wednesday of every month an EFMP networking support group meets from 5-6 p.m. at Murr Community Center.

The support group is open to anyone. Those looking for information can also stop by Army Community Services.

"We have a lot of information," explained Peterson-Hosto, adding that a resource library is available at no cost for anyone needing information on different disabilities and special needs. ACS is open Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. For more information call Peterson-Hosto, 533-6871.

Page last updated Mon July 19th, 2010 at 11:20