By Angela Williams, Army Flier Staff WriterFebruary 23, 2012
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (Feb. 23, 2012) -- It's not uncommon to hear mothers talk about being soccer moms, but at least one mother on Fort Rucker says she's not a soccer mom, but a therapy mom.
Instead of carting kids back and forth between practices, she's taking them to therapy sessions and doctors' appointments, said Marion Cornish, manager of the Exceptional Family Member Program at Fort Rucker, about a person she supports through the program who wishes to remain anonymous.
For Families like this, it helps to know Cornish, who said the program's mission is "to help Soldiers that have Family members who have any type of special needs and insure that services are available to them as they move throughout their military career."
The services offered by EFMP are as varied as the needs that would qualify a person for the program. "Special needs" is a broad category that includes special education, developmental delays, asthma, diabetes and many other significant health problems, Cornish said.
Even if a Soldier's Family member is recovering from an illness and just needs to see a specialist once a year, it could qualify them for the EFMP program, she said.
The EFMP is made up of three major components, according to Cornish. The first part, the medical portion of EFMP, evaluates and enrolls potential EFMP members. The second part, the portion Cornish is most involved in, provides services to the Families with enrolled members. The third part is the human resources command. This group makes sure necessary services will be available at the Soldier's next duty station.
The medical portion of the EFMP at Fort Rucker is at Lyster Army Health Clinic. Cornish said Families who need to enroll in EFMP or who want to see if they are eligible for EFMP services, should call that office and make an appointment.
After being enrolled, Families have many services available to them. Some of the many services offered by EFMP are workshops, training, support groups, advocacy and a respite care program.
Cornish said the most popular service is respite care. This program helps the primary caregiver of qualifying Families get time away from their daily routine. If a Family meets all the requirements, they can receive this service for a maximum of 40 hours a month at no cost to them.
"Sometimes there's a lot our Families with special needs have to go through," Cornish said. "So if you can get a break, even just for a little while, you can come back refreshed and ready to deal the things you have to deal with on a regular basis."
Many of the caregivers use the time they are given through the respite care program to complete basic tasks like grocery shopping.
"A lot of us with healthy children take a lot of things for granted," Cornish said. "We don't think about all the orchestration involved in going to the grocery store with a child in a wheelchair."
Another popular service offered through EFMP is social events. Cornish has planned Family outings around golf, bowling and even Zumba. The Army is really pushing for inclusion, so EFMP will find a way for special needs Family members to participate.
The staff at child and youth services and the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation can modify many activities if Families will give them some time to prepare. "I don't think many Families realize that feature is there," Cornish said.
Most of the EFMP services are appealing to Families, but there is at least one provision that can be frustrating for some Soldiers -- human resources. On occasion, a Soldier's request for a specific duty station can be denied based on the needs of the Family. "But, it really is in the best interests of the Family," Cornish said.
But even in the rare circumstances in which a Soldier's request is denied or that Soldier is moved to a place where there are no services for their Family member, EFMP is there to help the Family explore other options.
Though enrollment in EFMP may affect the places a Soldier can go, it won't affect promotions. Cornish said this is a common misconception, but information about EFMP enrollment is never provided to the board that determines promotions.
However, Cornish reminds Families that EFMP services are always subject to the needs of the Army. Enrollment in EFMP is not a guarantee of any services or duty station.
Cornish said if she had one message to send to the Families in EFMP, it would be this: "You're not alone and we're here to help. And that's really the bottom line."
To learn more about the EFMP at Fort Rucker, visit the Army Community Service office at the Soldier Service Center or call 255-9277.