Conference to Spotlight Military Family Issues
By Elaine Sanchez
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 26, 2011 Nearly 2,000 helping professionals from around the world are gathering in Chicago this week to share the latest family-related information and research and to hear from some of the nation’s most renowned military family experts.
The 2011 Family Resilience Conference, which kicks off tomorrow, will offer participants access to more than 200 workshops, computer labs and roundtables on everything from psychological health and well-being to education and spouse employment.
The Defense and Agriculture departments are hosting this family-focused conference together for the first time. Officials hope the joint effort will build on a working relationship that spans 25 years and encompasses numerous partnerships, said Barbara Thompson, director of the Pentagon’s office of family policy, children and youth.
This joint effort “really synergizes our efforts for all families and helps our non-DOD partners understand the issues facing military families,” Thompson said.
The goal, she said, is to take the big-picture partnership between the DOD and USDA and “filter it down to the front lines of family support services.”
“It’s so important for DOD family support personnel to reach out to their communities and know what their communities offer and know how to tap into the wealth of resources,” she said.
About half of the attendees are from the Agriculture Department, and the other half are members of the military helping professional community, Thompson said. The conference brings together experts from the Agriculture Department’s Children, Youth and Families at Risk program, the Cooperative Extension Service and DOD’s community and family support program.
Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president for outreach and educational practices at Sesame Workshop, will be the keynote speaker at the opening ceremony. Also at the opening, officials will sign a proclamation formalizing the partnership between the Defense and Agriculture departments to better families’ lives, Thompson said. Other conference highlights include town hall meetings with senior enlisted advisors and their wives and with the service chaplains, she added.
Several initiatives also will be unveiled over the course of the week, Thompson said, citing the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness as an example. The clearinghouse, she explained, will serve as a repository of information, research and studies, as well as an avenue to assess the effectiveness of programs.
While the week will be packed with sessions, Thompson said, she hopes the caregivers attending will benefit from the brief respite from their daily tasks.
“This is a way for them to re-energize, find new resources to make their jobs easier and new colleagues they can draw on,” she said. “We hope they come back renewed and re-energized to continue their best.”
People who are unable to attend can follow the conference online. The keynote addresses and the town hall session with senior enlisted leaders will be streamed live at http://www.cyfernet.org/partnership2011, and people are invited to follow the conference or submit questions via Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/FRConf.
Interested people also can catch conference highlights throughout the week on Defense.gov and on American Forces Press Service’s Family Matters Blog.