A brief synopsis of the Blogger Roundtable call with Ms. Barbara Thompson, Director of the Office of Family Policy/Children and Youth.
Here’s a link to the audio file of the Roundtable
During a brief overview of the recent report Strengthening Our Military Families, Ms. Thompson discussed that many of these programs are already in place, and have been for the past year. As she said, this program is an integrated process – these programs are located in 16 different Federal Agencies, from the Dept. of Labor to the Dept. of Commerce; the Dept. of Education to Dept. of Interior. If you look at the actual report, all 16 Secretaries of the Departments have individually signed a pledge of support on behalf of the agency.
The question of where the money is coming from – according to Ms. Thompson it’s coming from each agency. This is no longer only a DoD bucket of money, these programs are either already in place, but will now include more military families; or will be funded by the agency in question. The agencies made the commitment to a program, and they provide their own funding or will include military families in the program.
There is a question about how military families will be able to find out what plans are available. The Chairman will be working with the White House, and they are trying to work out an integrated communications strategy, with (hopefully) a central website to make this a lot simpler. As Ms. Thompson said, she doesn’t want to make us go to each individual Department to see what is there, or what is being worked on! Strategic communication plan will be crucial and will be the work of the next few months. The Chairman will be getting updates and will make sure everyone stays informed, so we’ll need to keep checking his site!
I was happy to hear that the Blue Star Family Museum program, which coordinated with the National Endowment for the Arts, was singled out as a very successful program that took place last year and is happily going to continue this year.
Amongst the programs or initiatives discussed were a childcare pilot program in 13 states with HHS, Depts. of Ag and Education, to assist with licensing standards – especially for National Guard and Reserve programs. The Army Spouse Employment program is being opened to all military spouses, not just Army and the Dept. of Commerce and Small Business Administration are assisting with spouse employment initiatives. Homeland Security and others are working on licensing transferability, and user friendly information with Federal Agencies (those who committed to hiring milspouses); in the Dept. of Education, FAFSA application will be made easier for military families and the Interior Department is opening National parks to aid wounded warriors in recovery and working with conservation program hiring.
Overseas is a different matter – childcare changes are specific for US (licensing requirement) but employment corporations are overseas as well. The Interstate compact for transferability for military children’s education will help when families rotate back to the United States, with their children coming back into schools here.
One important point is that the Department of Health and Human Services and SAMSA partnering with programs for suicide prevention and increase psychiatric health resources.
This has been a wide-ranging initiative. Questions were asked how did you involve milfams and spouses. The White House brought in families for roundtables, various support and advocacy groups such as Blue Star Families, National Military Association amongst others were consulted, and needs were brought to the table when the First Lady and Dr. Biden were meeting with families. Other information and suggestions were the results of national leadership initiatives, listening sessions and meetings. Meetings with non profits, corporations, the private sector, as well as intense overview by those responsible in the departments and agencies, together with meetings, surveys, discussions and roundtables all went into this initiative and this report.
An important point that the President made – this has to be enduring, not just this administration, it needs to keep going. ALL of America needs to support the military families, not just one agency, one department.
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