GRAFENWOEHR, Germany - After her 8-year-old son Thatcher suffered debilitating brain trauma from a bicycle accident, Angela Deese's life changed drastically.

She was living overseas, drowning in doctors' appointments and physical therapy, and her husband was deployed. She had two young girls to care for in addition to her ailing son, but soon found out she was not alone, thanks to the Exceptional Family Member Program.

Through EFMP, Deese's husband was able to fly home on emergency leave a few days after the accident. When he returned to Afghanistan, however, EFMP continued to support Deese through the long process of rehabilitation for her young son. The program provided information on medical facilities within the community and offered free respite care for her two younger children so Deese and Thatcher could travel to his numerous appointments.

"It was extremely helpful," said Deese. "I was by myself. I'm not sure how I would have juggled it all otherwise."

EFMP is a mandatory enrollment program that works with other military and civilian agencies to provide comprehensive and coordinated community support, housing, educational, medical and personnel services to families with special needs. These needs range greatly and include physical, emotional or a developmental diagnosis and family members in need of specialized treatment, therapy or counseling.

Whether a child suffers from a mild case of asthma or requires special education for autism, EFMP will guide military families toward the support they need. When a Soldier is authorized an overseas assignment and elects to serve the accompanied tour, the accompanying exceptional family members must be screened and enrolled in the program prior to PCSing. This screening consists of medical records review for all family members, and developmental screening for all children six years of age and younger.

Additionally, Soldiers are responsible for keeping their EFMP enrollment current as exceptional family member (EFM) conditions change or at least every three years, whichever comes first. The EFMP program remains dedicated to keeping up with the changes and needs of the 1,200 members currently enrolled in the Grafenwoehr footprint. Exceptional Family Member Program Manager Jay Velis, Army Community Service, encourages enrolled family members to contact the organization for information on facility accommodations.

"We don't want any members to assume we can't help them," said Velis. "We have wheelchair ramps for both bowling alleys, exercise machines at the fitness center to accommodate those with physical limitations, special events just for our members - and if we don't have what they need, we can explore our options to accommodate."

Support groups are also available to connect family members by giving them a mechanism to discuss everyday challenges and offering advice to aid EFMP in meeting all participants' needs. Free bowling and movie passes are additional incentives enjoyed by families.

If EFMP cannot meet the needs of any family member or feels the family would be better suited for convenience of medical attention elsewhere, Soldiers may be eligible for a compassionate reassignment. Although this was an option for Deese, she decided to stay in Grafenwoehr.

"We found we had everything we needed medically to properly care for Thatcher on and off post," said Deese. "When you are stationed overseas, the military community becomes your family fast. We have all the support we need right here."

For more, contact EFMP representatives at 476-2881 (Rose Barracks) or 475-8371 (Main Post).

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16