FORT SHAFTER, Hawaii (Dec. 13, 2013) -- Lois-Lynn Deuel and her family made a permanent change of station move to Hawaii this past summer, one of 13 moves in 29 years and one of seven duty assignments since their son was born 10 years ago.

Hawaii is the Deuel's third assignment outside the continental U.S. (CONUS).

Unlike previous assignments, Deuel realized early that she needed assistance in the transition because of her son's medical and educational needs. She reached out to the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) manager at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, and the office connected her to Kerry Dauphineè, EFMP Systems Navigator, here.

"PCS transitions are challenging for any family, but they are especially difficult when you have an Exceptional Family Member (EFM)," said Deuel. "A seamless transition of medical and educational services for an EFM is what we strive for with each PCS, but the system that delivers these services differs greatly from assignment to assignment, especially if you are moving across regions."

Systems Navigation is a delivery service within the Army Community Services' EFMP.

Systems Navigators began providing nonclinical case management and direct client services in September 2010, working with families in the EFMP community to help alleviate daily stressors and to link families to community support services, on and off the installation.

"Systems Navigators have inside information on how to work within the system," Deuel said. "In fact, the EFMP motto is 'We know the system; we can help.'

"That's comforting to a family, who can go from having a well-oiled service delivery machine of doctors, therapists and teachers to starting from scratch and feeling like they have lost it all," Deuel said.

Working through different systems can be daunting. For example, in most states, if a child has an Individual Education Program (IEP), his or her parent would contact the school district's special education department and work downward to the school. In Hawaii, the first point of contact is the local school.

Similarly, there may be service partnerships that are different in Hawaii than in other states.

"Tripler Army Medical Center partners with the school system to deliver services in a way I did not anticipate," Deuel said.

In addition to assisting with transitions from one installation to another, Systems Navigators can provide advocacy for a child by attending School Focus Team meetings with parents to assist them with the process of obtaining or developing a 504 Plan or an IEP.

While more than 75 percent of the families Systems Navigators assist involves a child or adolescent EFM, Systems Navigators also work to address the needs of adult EFMs.

"Many of our families have adult members who are EFMs," said Leonard Webster, EFMP coordinator.

Systems Navigators can help with housing accommodations, applying for respite care, provide information on federal services, such as Supplemental Security Income, or simply connect families to other organizations or resources.

"If you just don't know where to begin," Webster said, "come see a Navigator. Navigators can be a sounding board, a resource directory or a compass. Whatever role they play, they can help."