AMES, Iowa--- First Lady Michelle Obama recently announced a national 90-day review of the Federal government’s approach to support and engage Military Families. The First Lady said the review will bring together the resources of the federal government to identify new opportunities across both public and private sectors and lay the foundation for a coordinated approach to supporting and engaging Military Families.
Military Families have been finding support in their states through their land-grand universities and the Operation: Military Kids program. Iowa State University Extension 4-H Youth Development has been supporting military kids through the Operation: Military Kids partnership since 2004. Iowa has more than 10,600 dependent children and step-children directly affected by the military. Iowa counties have varying numbers of military children, with a high of almost 2,000 to a low of fewer than 10.
Operation: Military Kids Fills a Need
“Iowa is one of the few states without a military installation within the state borders,” said Chris Gleason, project director for Operation: Military Kids and ISU Extension 4-H youth development specialist. “This adds to the challenges military children and families face, as military installations are a place of many resources and a sense of belonging. The lack of a military installation adds to the importance of developing community-based programs to support Military Families where they live.”
Operation: Military Kids’ partners are focusing on training educators, school counselors and community based organizations about the challenges Military Families face. Identifying support networks before deployment, knowing roles within the family and community, and knowing where to go for support is very important to a Military Family’s success in thriving, not just surviving throughout the deployment cycle.
“It is extremely important right now to get into schools with information, training and resources,” said Gleason. “We have close to 3,000 soldiers being deployed in late July, and approximately three weeks afterward their children will be back in school.”
“We really want to provide the schools with knowledge, training and resources to foster resiliency in military kids,” said Gleason.
Social competence, problem solving skills, autonomy, and sense of purpose are the four characteristics of resilient kids. Operation: Military Kids partners and other community support groups combine resources from Extension, the military, schools, faith organizations, American Legion, and others to provide activities and educational opportunities to develop these characteristics. More information on Operation: Military Kids is available at: www.extension.iastate.edu/4h/programs/omk.
Community-based Support Makes a Difference
“All it takes is a couple of people to be catalysts to pull together and organize for a community-based support group,” said Gleason.
The Military Family support group in Delaware County is a prime example.
“The group is relatively new, meeting in March for the first time, but is very ambitious and action packed,” said Lori Scovel, ISU Extension program director in Delaware County.
It all started with one phone call from one person who had seen a presentation about Operation: Military Kids. This call began the organization of a group of Veteran’s Affairs staff, school principals, American Legion members, ministers, community chambers and ISU Extension staff. The group continues to grow, but has the same goal: to meet the on-going needs of Military Families.
“In Delaware County, there is no military unit based,” said Scovel. “This can lead to Military Families feeling geographically isolated. The community group wants Military Families to know they care and are working together to support them.”
The first event for the group will be June 27 at the Manchester Aquatic Center for a picnic and pool party. There will be information and activities for all ages and members of the family. The event's main goals are family bonding and fun. This is a starter event for the group to identify the wants and needs of local Military Families. For more information contact Lori Scovel at 563-927-4201 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also in the region, the Dubuque Area Military Families is hosting a gathering Saturday, July 10 at the Flora Park and Pool for a 5 p.m. picnic and 7 p.m. pool party that is free for military families. For more information or to RSVP contact Gloria Klinefelter at 563-583-5545 or email@example.com.