DOD Expands Family Support Network
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 13, 2012 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.
And that support is continuing, with many more programs and a broader reach, DOD’s senior official for family support said today.
“I’d like to thank our families for their service because our families do serve, too,” 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. “And military life is unique. As result, we need to focus on programs that our families can attend and use to ensure they’re meeting those challenges.”
Two decades ago, that meant beefing up brick and mortar offices on installations and equipping and manning them to respond to people who walked in, Gordon said. And while DOD still supports family support offices -- and such offices now 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 however many families 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 and 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 and spouse education and employment opportunities.
“We want to make sure that regardless of the type of assistance families need, we have got 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 would also like them to share that information with others, Gordon said.
“Share your stories,” he said. “We’ve got great programs in our communities and people do not know the programs exist.”