Conference to Deliver Latest in Military Family Care
By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2009 The Defense Department’s first joint family readiness conference in nearly a decade will take place next week in Chicago, the director of the Office of Family Policy/Children and Youth said.
The conference is expected to draw about 1,500 helping professionals from throughout the world and will offer information and resources as well as the latest research affecting military family care, Barbara Thompson said.
“We are really excited about the depth and breadth of information that will be available at the conference,” Thompson said. “We expect the conference to reaffirm, rekindle and to re-energize -- reaffirm the importance of the work the conference attendees do each day as they support and assist our families.
“We know that the high-operational tempo has had an impact on our helping professionals, too, so we want the conference to rekindle their energy and passion,” she continued. “And we want them to return to their home stations re-energized and ready to continue their support.”
Participants -- who represent each military service and active and reserve components -- serve military members and their families in professions such as family support, children and youth, psychological health, health care, education and the chaplaincy.
Conference topics are wide-ranging to address the needs of the multidisciplinary audience, Thompson said. Each day is packed with workshops and sessions on topics such as deployment and redeployment support, exceptional family members, youth support, relationship building, education, spouse employment, personal finance and health care and psychological services.
The keynote speakers are Army Gen. Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. Army Europe and 7th Army, and his wife, Christi. The conference also will feature a town-hall session with senior enlisted advisors from each military service.
“Today there is a tremendous groundswell of support for military families resulting from an increased interest in and awareness of the sacrifices military families make,” Thompson said. “In [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] and across the services, we’ve been working hard to build programs and support services that are responsive to the needs of our military families.
“We look to the conference as a time to solidify awareness of these programs, to improve communication across disciplines and provide an opportunity for professional growth and development,” she said.
Thompson said the conference will be one of three this year that will focus on family readiness. The next conference will focus on the needs of families with young children, and the third will address support to families with special needs.
American Forces Press Service will cover the family readiness conference for Defense Department news and the department’s “Family Matters” blog.