January 11, 2010
The Army Family Covenant in action, Part 1 –
Family programs and services
By Kevin Crouch
FMWRC Public Affairs
WASHINGTON – The Army unveiled the Army Family Covenant on Oct. 8, 2007, which pledges the Army’s commitment to providing Soldiers and Families a quality of life, commensurate with their dedicated service and sacrifice to the nation. The Army Family Covenant is the Army’s promise to take care of not only the Soldiers, but the Families who also serve side-by-side with their Soldiers, while providing unconditional support to keep the Army strong.
The Army Family Covenant is comprised of commitments that serve to enhance Soldier and Family readiness. Two years after the initial signing, many Soldiers and Families are still not sure what the Army Family Covenant is supposed to provide or the makeup of its content. This is the first in a series of five articles that identify and discuss the delivery of the Army Family Covenant in detail and focuses on Family programs and services.
The Army’s Family and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Command is the organization charged with developing MWR policy, plans, strategies and standards, supporting Army Commanders to implement Family and MWR programs and operate and manage assigned MWR activities. The Family Programs Directorate within the Family and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation Command has the responsibility to develop all Family programs and services within the Army.
Army Families are resilient; however they require assistance to help them meet their needs. The Army Family Covenant’s commitment to Families enhances that resiliency by providing support, training, care, and social interaction opportunities through an established and resourced infrastructure. The result is the delivery of quality Family programs and services in a consistent and seamless manner.
“The Army Family Covenant has brought greater awareness of Families and recognition of their service and sacrifice. Families tell us we have great programs. There was no need to create new programs, only to fully fund and staff existing Army Family programs consistently to better enhance the quality of life for our Soldiers and Families.” said Lynn McCollum, Director of FMWRC Family Programs. “We have expanded our budget over the previous two years to significantly improve the existing Family programs, pay for these improvements in service, and increase the number of personnel that directly support the execution of these programs,” McCollum said.
“A great example is respite care for Families with exceptional needs. For the first time, this program has been fully funded.” she said.
These programs and services are critical to help Army Families cope with frequent deployments, stressors resulting from unfamiliarity with Army life or the installation, and the ultimate fear: the loss of a loved one.
A major tenet of the Army Family Covenant is the commitment to standardize Family programs and services throughout the Army. One example of this standardization that the Army has implemented is Army Community Service staffing and programs at installations, worldwide, and has fully funded 477 positions to meet operational and staffing shortfalls.
“The Army, through the Army Family Covenant, has developed and placed into service numerous Family programs that are specifically targeted to improve the quality of support and service,” McCollum said. “One area where we have invested much time and resources is the ArmyOneSource.com portal. ArmyOneSource.com provides a single access point for Family programs and services for Families on Army installations and those Families who are geographically dispersed away from an installation.”
Another notable Family service the Army has implemented since the signing of the Army Family Covenant include the establishment of the Survivor Outreach Services, which is a standardized, decentralized approach to improving support for survivors of fall Soldiers. It recognized the need for and developed survivor support coordinators and financial counselors to improve outreach, referrals, life skills, investment education, and estate planning.
Also developed and implemented through the Army Family Covenant was the addition of nearly 1100 Family readiness support assistants within Family Readiness Groups. These groups are normally comprised of Soldiers’ spouses from within battalion or brigade sized units who meet to discuss and resolve issues affecting Families within the units.
Soldier and Family assistance centers were established at Army installations that have Warrior Transition Units. These centers provide a facility for Wounded Warriors and their Families to gather for mutual support to aid in the physical, spiritual, and mental healing process. Services provided within the centers include transition support, as well as financial, child care, and education counseling.
Family Programs at FMWRC has forged greater relationships with the Army's Chaplain Corps. The Army Family Covenant created an additional 33 Family Life Chaplain positions to deliver Family ministry, training, and marriage enhancement programs. FMWRC has been there to support. Strong Bonds includes a series of marriage and Family skill building programs designed to increase marital satisfaction, reduce divorce rates, and enhance Soldier and Family readiness. “We know that strong relationships have been proven to be directly related to increased resiliency. Strong Bonds is a proven method to building those attachments,” said Lieutenant Colonel Tom Waynick, FMWRC Staff Chaplain. "I am proud that we at FMWRC are supporting this great commander-chaplain lead program."
The Army has increased the number of Military Family Life Consultants who work directly with Army Community Service, National Guard Headquarters and Reserve Regional Commands to provide support to Soldiers and their Families during the deployment and return cycle. The activities of Military Family Life Consultants include providing support to Families during reintegration, outreach to Guard and Reserve Families by providing support on weekends, and responding to specific requests for support when there has been a unit death or injury.
“There are a myriad of programs and services the Army Family Covenant pledges to provide our Soldiers and Families,” said McCollum. “We ensure the Families receive the best possible service and we listen to their concerns so we can continue to develop and implement top quality programs that address their requirements.”
McCollum further stated, “We want to ensure every Family is provided the resources they need to make them more resilient through difficult or stressful times in their lives. The Army Family Covenant promises this support. Soldiers and Families deserve the very best and we continually strive to be the conduit that provides the Family programs and services to fulfill that promise.”