Family resources must connect with communities, official says

10 Jul 2013 | Terri Moon Cronk

Getting educators and care providers to understand the particular needs of military children is crucial, a Defense Department official told the Military Child Education Coalition's 15th National Training Seminar July 9.

Charles E. Milam, acting deputy assistant secretary of defense for Military Community and Family Policy, emphasized the need to work with local communities near military bases where three-quarters of military families generally live.  As an ex-Air Force child and former military spouse, Milam spoke about the challenges of military children through his own experiences.

He said living on military installations gave him the support he and his family needed while raising two young children while his wife was deployed.   Because of today's tendency to live off-base, it is important to establish regular partnerships with community resources, he said.

The Defense Department must ensure that care providers and educators understand the unique needs of military kids when a parent deploys, Milam said. "They need to understand that there will be change and it will affect [military children]."

"Yet knowing what military children go through is the piece that's very important," Milam said, describing the challenges posed by constant moves, changing schools and deployed parents. 

"We have to focus on the needs of our families who live off the installations," he stressed. "I have read countless [accounts] the last 15 to 20 years how there's a common theme that military families are not aware of the services and programs that we offer [on installations]."

Milam said that the word is getting out through social media, andhe issued a challenge to the audience to focus on partnering, and connecting installation services and programs with the communities in which military families tend to live.

"It's tough being a military child," Milam said, "But I also think it's the adversity and the challenges they go through that make them tough."

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