By Ms Shayna E Brouker (IMCOM)May 31, 2011
WANT to voice your concerns about life on the installation to top Army leaders? Need help adjusting to post-deployment life, or maybe just a sympathetic ear? There's a Family program to help with each of these issues, and for just about any others today's Army Families face.
Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation Command delivers a wide range of programs for Soldiers and Families. From the transformed Army Community Service program to the Exceptional Family Member Program, Family programs are constantly adapting to better serve those who serve.
Whatever the problem, there's a Family program with a solution, but knowing where and how to find them is half the battle. That's where Army Community Service offices can help.
Since the 1970s, Army Community Service has served as the "answer people," according to Paulette Freese, chief of Policy and Operations Branch, Soldier Family Readiness Division. They cover an array of programs and support services, including the EFMP and Employment Readiness. But a comprehensive review of the ACS program found that Soldiers and Family members faced difficulty deciding which services best met their needs.
To ensure a smooth hand-off between service providers, ACS will now train more "generalists" to help Soldiers and Family members find the right services to address their needs. From there, specialists will guide customers through more extensive services, as needed. A client tracking system ensures continual contact with the customer until they feel their needs have been met.
"We want to use the terms 'No wrong door for services,'" Freese said. "And, 'No customer left behind.'"
The pilot design was tested at 22 installations from February through March, and all garrisons are expected to operate under the new design beginning in October.
Started in 1983 by Army spouses, the Army Family Action Plan enables Soldiers, retirees, civilians and Family members to let Army leaders know what works, what doesn't work and what they think will fix it.
This is the only program of its kind in the Department of Defense; however, more than 60 percent of all active issues impact all services. It begins at the garrison level and culminates at the Army Family Action Plan Conference. Information provided throughout the process gives leaders insight into current satisfaction detractors, quality of life needs and expectations of Army constituents. Leaders use the information to affect changes that improve standards of living and support programs, fostering satisfied, informed, resilient individuals.
More than 660 issues have been identified in the past 27 years, leading to 123 legislative changes, 172 Army and Defense policy changes and 192 changes to programs and services.
After a week of discussions at the most recent AFAP conference, delegates reported to Army leaders on the five most critical issues: identification cards for surviving children, formal standardized training for designated caregivers of wounded warriors, medically retired servicemembers' eligibility for concurrent receipt of disability pay, military child development program fee cap and extending medical-retention processing-time restrictions for reserve-component Soldiers.
Army Family Team Building is the primary education and training mechanism for Army Families. The modular training program is designed to provide Family members with the skills and tools necessary to successfully maneuver through the Army system, understand the military environment and way of life, and access the many resources and services available.
Classes are divided into three levels"military knowledge, personal growth and professional development"and are available online 24/7 at http://www.myarmyonesource.com, as well as at local Army Community Service or Family Programs offices. Army Family Team Building also offers the Enlisted Spouse Training Series, which prepares enlisted spouses for additional responsibilities as their Soldiers are promoted or assigned special duties as drill sergeants or recruiters, for example.
The Army Volunteer Corps is a commander's program to maximize volunteering via community and individual opportunities for Army personnel and their Families. The program exists to serve the needs of the entire Army community: active duty, National Guard and Reserve. The AVC coordinator serves as the installation point of contact for volunteerism, unifying volunteer efforts of Army activities and private organizations across the community.
The AVC formalizes the Army's commitment to volunteers by embracing volunteer programs and uniting volunteers. In the continuous process of Army community assessment and planning, volunteers share skills, information and experience to improve programs and services. Through volunteering, they become more active community members, enhance their personal and professional skills, reinforce their positive work habits and achieve personal fulfillment.
Communities recognize their volunteers in a number of ways, both formally and informally. Every year, National Volunteer Recognition week acknowledges the contributions of volunteers. The theme for this year's tribute, held April 10-16, was Celebrating People in Action.
The Army created the Exceptional Family Member Program in the early 1980s to support the 16 percent of Family members with special physical, emotional, mental, developmental or educational needs. The program provides community support, housing, medical, educational and personnel services to Families with an exceptional Family member, and considers their needs when assigning Soldiers to new duty stations.
Army Medicine launched a new website for the program, http://etmp.amedd.army.mil, in January. It offers information about Medical Command support, including enrollment, screening and medical care in Europe. Families can also download the required forms.
Since 1995, the New Parent Support Program has given Army moms and dads the tools to build strong Families with playgroups, home visits, parenting classes and professional counseling. Licensed clinical social workers and registered nurses sensitive to the unique issues Army Families face, offer advice on everything from breastfeeding to deployment issues for Families with children from birth through the age of three.
All active, Guard and Reserve Soldiers and their Families within a 50-mile radius of an installation are eligible for these services, but first-time parents, single parents and dual-military Families have priority.
The Army Family Advocacy Program was established to identify and prevent domestic violence, child abuse and neglect. Part of that effort is treating and counseling victims and even offenders. The FAP offers victim advocacy support, parenting classes, anger and stress management support groups, new parent home visits, individual and group counseling, education and awareness, and information and resource referrals.
The FAP also offers the Transitional Compensation Program, which provides financial support to a spouse whose Soldier has been court-martialed for domestic, child or sexual abuse. As of Jan. 21, 2011, the duration of Transitional Compensation benefits has been standardized to 36 months.
Forty-nine Soldier and Family assistance centers across the country provide a nurturing atmosphere for Soldiers and their Families as they redeploy from war zones. These centers offer services such as entitlement and benefits counseling, transition and employment assistance, educational services, substance abuse information and referrals for Family members, child care referrals and legal and pastoral services, among others.
The centers coordinate with the Army Wounded Warrior Program and the Warrior Transitional Command, which develop a holistic care plan for each Soldier to help them rehabilitate and return to duty or transition to civilian life. Dedicated to providing support whenever needed, the Wounded Warrior and Family Hotline is available from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, at 1-800-984-8523.
Dedicated to supporting Family members of Soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice, Survivor Outreach Services helps surviving Family members acquire benefits, maintain financial stability through investment and estate planning education, connect with support groups and counseling services, and obtain life-skills education. The program vows to support surviving Family members however long they desire.
The Mobilization and Deployment Readiness team works with unit Family readiness groups, Operation READY (Resources for Educating About Deployment and You), the Rear Detachment Commander's Course and PDHealth.mil to assist Soldiers and Families throughout the Army Force Generation cycle. This coordinated effort provides Soldiers and Families with guidance, resources and training to help them cope with deployment stressors.
The Army recognizes the importance of a spouse's satisfaction with Army life. Since spouse support is tied to spouse perception of quality of life issues, including financial well-being and the spouse's ability to realize personal and professional goals, spouse employment emerges as a major determining factor in Soldier retention.
Employment Readiness supports the belief that every Army spouse should have the choice to become employed, and provides resources to help them pursue careers. Professional job search trainers help job seekers identify short- and long-term career goals and develop an individual career plan. Job search trainers also provide access to seminars and workshops on job search strategies and databases.
Employment Readiness program managers coordinate with installation civilian personnel offices, community agencies, DOD contractors, local employers and local Chamber of Commerce businesses to expand employment opportunities for spouses.
The Army has entered into partnerships with Fortune 500 companies and public service organizations to further expand spouse employment opportunities. The program, currently called the Army Spouse Employment Partnership, will soon be known as the Military Spouse Employment Partnership. It is an integral part of the Employment Readiness Program and private-sector, military and federal partners help provide employment opportunities to spouses of all branches of the military.
The ACS Financial Readiness Program uses a varied approach to provide training and counseling for Soldiers and Families. The Military Saves program, part of the financial readiness campaign, encourages Soldiers and their Families to establish healthy financial habits through savings and financial planning, encouraging them to start small and think big.
Financial readiness and consumer advocacy services are available at every installation. Through the FRP, Soldiers and Family members learn how to invest their money, establish savings goals, eliminate debt and save for emergencies through classroom training and individual counseling sessions.
Through partnerships with non-profit organizations and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the FRP also brings personal financial managers to installations to address areas such as foreclosure; credit management; and saving and investing in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, 401(k)s, annuities, IRAs and the Thrift Savings Plan.
Relocation readiness is critical to managing the challenges of the mobile military lifestyle. The Relocation Readiness Program provides support services for Army personnel and their Families during military transitions, and focuses priorities to best meet the needs of the expeditionary Army.
Those services include DOD Military Homefront (www.militaryhomefront.dod.mil), a website with links to military installation information. Plan My Move assists personnel and their Families with pre- and post-move needs, and counseling (individual or group) for inbound and outbound transferees.
Education and training provides mandatory overseas orientations, re-entry workshops, pre- and post-move orientations, services to multicultural Families, outreach services for waiting Families, sponsor training and ACS liaisons to the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Whatever the problem, a Family Program solution is only a call, click or visit away. As the Army continues to adapt to a changing environment, Family Programs will continue to adapt to serve Soldiers and Families and ensure mission readiness.