In response to concerns raised by military spouses about persistent transition problems when their children move to a new school, defense officials will hold a conference next year to explore the issues.
It’s one of the major concerns routinely brought up by military spouses, said Stephanie Barna, acting assistant secretary of defense for manpower and reserve affairs, during Tuesday’s meeting of the DoD Military Family Readiness Council.
“They’re growing tired of hearing all about the [Interstate Compact for Educational Opportunities for Military Children] and how it should make their lives and the lives of their children easier, but in many cases that’s just not their practical experience on the ground,” Barna said. She gave examples of spouses being told in some cases their child doesn’t qualify to move to the next grade, or being told the child needs special testing.
She’s asked the Department of Defense Education Activity to sponsor a conference, she said.
“We would like to have a comprehensive, collaborative conference to talk about how things are going, whether it’s working on the ground and whether there’s something we as a council could recommend,” she said, adding that the conference will bring together representatives from the states, DoD state liaison office officials and others.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have voluntarily adopted the compact, which addresses school transition issues of children of active-duty members, including National Guard and reserve members on active-duty orders. But states are at various stages of implementing the compact, which means that in some areas, it’s not happening at the school level.
The compact is not designed to give military children an unfair edge, but to level the playing field and compensate for disadvantages military children have traditionally faced when they move.
The issue of parental satisfaction with the interstate compact was brought up in the DoD family readiness council as its members considered military family readiness recommendations they will forward to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis. The issue will be included in the report to Mattis, but officials are moving forward to look at the issue in the meantime, she said.
Recommendations going to Mattis include:
Continue to pursue standardization between states for military spouse professional licensing and certifications. This has been a persistent problem for military spouses. DoD State Liaison Office has been working on the issue with states and is looking at interstate compacts as way of addressing the issue, said Marcus Beauregard, of that office.
There should be a push to help that office in these efforts, said Marine Corps spouse Julie Margolis, who is a council member. “If spouses are not working, they’re not bringing money to the table for their families, they’re not bringing money to the table for taxes,” she said.
Continue to standardize the Exceptional Family Member Program across the military services, while increasing the coordination and working relationship between EFMP and military health care.
Support integration of military family programs and resources into military treatment facilities. This idea isn’t to blur lines of responsibility for such programs, officials said, but to work together to provide cohesive support and help educate families. In a related recommendation, the health care and family readiness organizations would work to better connect children and adolescents to the right resources when they are at risk of mental health conditions, in situations such as deployment of parents.
Expand efforts to make it easier for DoD and the services to work with community organizations, in order to improve access to a broad range of resources, services and expertise needed by service members and family members.
The family council also voted to focus on four key issues for 2018:
- Spouse licensure.
- Post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injury, by assessing a variety of areas, including DoD’s progress in PTSD treatment.
- Child and youth well-being.
- Using community partnerships to bring more resources to military families.
Karen has covered military families, quality of life and consumer issues for Military Times for more than 30 years, and is co-author of a chapter on media coverage of military families in the book "A Battle Plan for Supporting Military Families." She previously worked for newspapers in Guam, Norfolk, Jacksonville, Fla., and Athens, Ga.