July 20, 2012

DOD expands family support network

by Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON D.C. — Much has changed in the 20 years since the Defense Department ramped up its family support programs by providing policy and guidance from the Pentagon to installations.

Family support is continuing with many more programs, complemented with exercising a broader reach, DOD’s senior official for family support said July 13.

“I’d like to thank our families for their service because our families also serve,” said Robert L. Gordon III, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy. Gordon spoke with American Forces Press Service and The Pentagon Channel to offer a reminder of the many support opportunities available to families in light of recently reissued family support guidance.

“We need to ensure we have services available for families to deal with the challenges of military life,” Gordon said. “Military life is unique, so as a result, we need to focus on programs that our families can attend and use to ensure they are meeting those challenges.”

Two decades ago, that meant beefing up brick and mortar offices on installations, manning them to respond to people who walked in, Gordon said. These offices are now set up to serve National Guard and Reserves, as well — it has greatly expanded other options, such as around-the-clock, seven-days-a-week phone lines for free counseling and a plethora of websites in an effort to appeal to families that want to receive information, he said.

“The support is available no matter what access they have to installations,” Gordon said. “They have a network of support — no matter where they live.”

Today’s military is “a multigenerational force and now we have the technology to reach out to everyone,” he added. “Our families will find that regardless of the time of day, regardless of where they are, we have support for them.”

The Department’s hub for support programs outside of installation offices is Military OneSource, which sponsors the 24-hour call line at 800-342-9647. Service members and their families can access the call line and immediately speak with a professional counselor about topics ranging from financial to career to social/emotional to child advocacy issues, Gordon said. Counselors will not discuss medical or substance abuse issues, but will give referrals, he said.

Military OneSource’s website offers information on various aspects of military life, such as deployment, family and recreation, health and relationships, financial and legal, crisis and disasters and community. The most popular support among families today, Gordon said, is in relocation services, spouse education and employment opportunities.

“We want to make sure that regardless of the type of assistance families need, we have the services and architecture available for them,” he said.

The department wants to hear back from families about their experiences with its support programs and share that information with others, Gordon said.

“Share your stories,” he said. “We’ve got great programs within our communities and people do not know the programs exist.”

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