After almost a year of development, the Department of Defense has released its first-ever Strategic Youth Action Plan. The DoD plan is an overarching strategy to better support the teen-age children of servicemembers by standardizing youth programs and policies, maximizing the effectiveness of partnerships with other organizations serving youths such as the Boys and Girls Club of America, and by promoting the best possible command support for youth programs. The plan is DoD's "roadmap to the future," intended to guide the many agencies supporting activities and programs for the military's teen-agers, to include: the military Services; the DoD Education Activity; Morale, Welfare, and Recreation offices; chaplains; military medical and law enforcement personnel; and national partners across the spectrum from government agencies such as the Department of Justice to civic organizations such as 4-H Clubs.
"The Department of Defense Strategic Youth Action Plan underscores our commitment to military youths and recognizes their unique circumstances and developmental needs," said Dr. Sue Bailey, assistant secretary of Defense for Health Affairs. To inaugurate the release of the plan, Bailey chaired a round table discussion of the plan at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. on May 5 with senior Defense and Service civilian and military leaders and 12 teens from military families. The round table discussion focused on how the plan addresses such issues as the challenges associated with being a military family member, stereotypes of military children, relocations, safety, deployment of military parents, satisfying the need for health-related information, and opportunities for teens to provide input and express concerns to community and Service leaders.
The plan establishes ten objectives: provide comprehensive youth programs DoD-wide, ensure command support and involvement, promote youth involvement, recognize and support family involvement, develop standard policies, expand partnerships and collaborations, ensure adequate resources, ensure that qualified enthusiastic adults work with youths, promote health services for adolescent growth and development, and address the needs of at-risk youths.
Of the 1.2 million children of active duty servicemembers, more than 358,000 are ages 11-18. The DoD provides youth programs through some 450 youth centers at 300 locations worldwide.
The DoD Strategic Youth Action plan is available through the Internet at http://dticaw.dtic.mil/milchild/initiatev.html [link no longer available] or from the National Clearinghouse for the Military Child Development Program at 1-888-237-3040.