By 2nd Lt. Jeremy Huggins
2nd Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Sherri Kitchens and Ana Brown, the Exceptional Family Member Program family support coordinators, pose with the EFMP banner at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Jan. 26, 2018. More than 600 families are involved in the program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dreshawn Murray)
A magnet promotes the Exceptional Family Member Program with the phrase “Exceptional Families, Exceptional Service” at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., Jan. 26, 2018. This was one of the handout items used to spread awareness on base about the program. (U.S. Air Force photo by Dreshawn Murray)
The EFMP’s purpose is to support these families by helping them identify and access programs or services which improve the quality of life for their loved ones with special educational or medical needs.
These health or educational exceptionalities can be developmental disorders such as Autism, genetic disorders like Down syndrome, physical ailments such as paralysis, the requirement for continued therapy due to mental health needs or many other conditions which require specialized care.
When a family has a member with one of these exceptionalities, their first stop is the 2nd Medical Group. Medical will determine if a Q code, which signifies a special educational or medical need, is appropriate. From there on, those families are matched with different support services such as the EFMP.
“Q coding assists in the assignment process because it helps ensure that wherever the families go, they have the proper care they need,” said Sherri Kitchens, EFMP family support coordinator. “We are here to support our families.”
This support can take the form of child care or dependent adult care to give parents or caretakers a break.
“Military members have access to 40 hours of respite care,” said Ana Brown, EFMP family support coordinator. “Families have a trained respite care provider who comes to their home for up to 40 hours a month for free.”
There are also events, camps and group workshops available for program members throughout the year. A few examples are movie nights where EFMP children and adults can get together; Camp Gator, where they have the opportunity to interact with local wildlife; and Sibshop workshops, which allow siblings and children in the EFMP to meet. These opportunities allow families to connect with each other and with organizations off base.
“We partner with a lot of off-base agencies and participate in their workshops,” Brown said. “We are a bridge between [EFMP families] and the community. We try to find those agencies off base who can best support our families.”
This service follows families from base to base.
“During the permanent change of station process, EFMP family support coordinators will communicate with the gaining base to ensure families will receive similar care once they arrive,” Kitchens said. “We try to make it a smooth transition for EFMP families who are relocating so it’s not disruptive to their continuum of care.”
Proper preparation ensures military members are ready to complete the mission and their families receive the care they need. Therefore, it’s recommended that military members have an understanding of the EFMP’s role in providing care to families because it gives them the power to utilize the resources their families need.