Military Families Need Comprehensive and Responsive Support System According to National Military Family Association (NMFA) Research

Organization Makes Key Recommendations for Future

In a briefing before Congressional and military leadership and staff today, the National Military Family Association (NMFA) unveiled the findings of its study on military family support. The report, "Serving the Home Front: An Analysis on Military Family Support from September 11, 2001 through March 31, 2004," is the result of a six-month research project conducted by the NMFA.

Funding for the analysis was provided by the Sears American Dream Campaign's $2 million contribution to NMFA for programs benefiting military families.

The analysis outlines family support programs available from each Service, identifies successful programs and initiatives and provides recommendations for the future. General research conclusions from the 36-page published report were highlighted at the briefing. These conclusions point to the need for an all-encompassing system of communication, training, partnerships and community support working together for the greatest benefit of military families. As described in today's briefing, this system includes:

  -- Effective communication to enhance the sharing of information and
     outreach to military families.

  -- Standardized and continuous training throughout the military family
     support system to provide families with the help they need.

  -- Replicating successful partnerships to ensure efforts of military and
     community agencies and organizations to benefit military families.

  -- Harnessing community support and goodwill to coordinate programs and
     services for military families.

The report also identifies underlying themes related to transforming military family support services. It notes that families need realistic expectations about the level of support available and must maintain some responsibility for their own readiness. Command involvement in all facets of family readiness is also important.

Key report recommendations focus on how military leaders, family support providers, communities and military family members can enhance support efforts to ensure that families are better able to meet the demands of long term, frequent deployments and high operational tempo (OPTEMPO). Specific recommendations provide guidance to military leaders and family support providers to improve program delivery and family access to support services. These recommendations include:

  -- Increase program outreach to families, especially those living away
     from military installations.

  -- Ensure command responsibility for maintaining communication between
     families and units.

  -- Improve education to families about health care and other benefits.

  -- Provide training to parents, school personnel and child care providers
     about how to help children cope.

  -- Provide more robust counselling services to servicemembers and

  -- Ensure the widespread acceptance of military powers of attorney.

  -- Cultivate partnerships with community agencies to increase the
     availability of child care.

  -- Encourage state and local government leaders to network and share
     programs that benefit military families.

"The broad snapshot of family support gained through research shows that many programs and services are in place to help military families and are doing so, but on an inconsistent basis. Families must have a comprehensive and responsive support system to prepare and sustain them," said Candace Wheeler, president of NMFA. Wheeler added, "Families serving on the home front remain resilient. However, as the high pace of military operations continues, their strength wears down."

"When our Sears American Dream Campaign made its $2 million contribution to the National Military Family Association, our goal was to have a lasting impact on military families through both direct outreach programs and advancing the dialogue regarding the needs of families of those who serve our country," said Robert J. O'Leary, senior vice president of public relations and government affairs for Sears. "By directing a portion of the fund to support this research, Sears and NMFA hope the findings will foster both that dialogue and the enhancement of services for military families for years to come."

Research for the analysis was conducted through various means including an online survey and focus group discussions with military family members. Input from family support providers was gathered through responses to questionnaires and personal interviews. Information from periodical resources, Congressional testimony, military briefings and websites were also documented.

Today's briefing also addressed the need for further research on family support, as military OPTEMPO remains high. "The needs of children during times of high OPTEMPO and determining the best ways parents can help their children require special attention. More research is also needed on the return of servicemembers from deployment and the reunions of families especially during and after multiple deployments," said Susan Evers, analysis project coordinator. The NMFA plans to study these specific issues in the near future through subsequent research projects.

The full report can be viewed at . For questions concerning the report, email or call 1-800-260-0218.

About NMFA

NMFA is a private, non-profit, non-partisan organization with a dedicated group of Volunteer Representatives, based around the world. These Representatives are the "eyes and ears" of the Association. Through their daily lives they embody the military lifestyle, including active duty, reserve, Guard and retirees. They also interact, educate, and inform military families of their benefits. In so doing they contribute to the Association's mission: to improve the quality-of-life for all military families through education, information and advocacy.

About Sears American Dream Campaign

In addition to this report, part of the $2 million contribution to NMFA was used to sponsor "Operation Purple," a summer camp program that allows children to interact with and learn from each other in an effort to help deal with deployment-related stress. Separately, NMFA and Sears recently published a unique keepsake book, A Tribute to Military Families: Letter of Thanks from Our Nation's Children, with inspiring essays from children on the importance of military families.

Sears' partnership with NMFA is part of the Sears American Dream Campaign, the company's multi-year, $100 million commitment to strengthen families, homes and communities. From helping low- and moderate-income homeowners nationwide outfit and maintain their homes, to assisting victims of natural disasters to providing thousands of children with new apparel to supporting military families, the Sears American Dream Campaign is making a meaningful difference in communities across the nation.

SOURCE: Sears American Dream Campaign

CONTACT: Joyce Raezer of National Military Family Association,
+1-703-931-6632, , or Lisa Gibbons of Sears, Roebuck and Co.,

Web site:

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