National Academies releases report on strengthening military families

Deployment and the general challenges of military life affect not only service members but also the families who depend on them as they support the nation. And the needs of military families reflect the diverse needs of modern American families.

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine — “Strengthening the Military Family Readiness System for a Changing American Society” — reviews challenges and opportunities facing military families and what is known about effective strategies for supporting and protecting military children and families. The report, which was co-authored by MFRI’s Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth and an esteemed committee of leaders, assessed available data and research on military children and families, including those who have left the military, with attention to differences by race, ethnicity, and other factors.

Undertaken by the National Academies’ Committee on the Well-Being of Military Families, the study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Defense and focuses on its Military Family Readiness System (MFRS), a network of agencies, programs, services, and individuals that promotes the well-being and quality of life of military service members and their families.

The report found that DOD’s MFRS has many good features and offers support not usually available in the private sector; however, it could be strengthened in a number of ways, including by though attention to a more comprehensive, coordinated framework to support well-being, resilience, and readiness.

Recommendations included that DOD strengthen the MFRS so that it:

  • Provides a comprehensive continuum of support across providers, locations, and changing benefit eligibility.
  • Facilitates adaptive and timely approaches to stepped service delivery according to individual family needs.
  • Draws upon effective evidence-based or evidence-informed approaches.
  • Integrates routine screening and assessment tools into the delivery of family support programs.
  • Builds and employs a robust infrastructure of both implementation and outcome data that supports continuous quality improvement.
  • Coordinates referrals and care across military and nonmilitary resources, institutions, and communities.

The report also recommends that the DOD promote better civilian understanding, both within military community and the broader community, of the strengths and needs of military-connected individuals, addressing misinformation, negative stereotypes, and lack of knowledge commonly found in the civilian sector about military life and service members.

 

About the National Academies: The National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln. For more information, visit nationalacademies.org.

Col. Roger Peterman, Retired discusses Battlemind to Home Summit 2019

Col. Roger Peterman, Retired is an advocate and supporter of Battlemind to Home. Listen to him discuss Battlemind 2019 and benefits is brings to the greater Indiana military community.

Joining Community Forces Indiana a collaborative effort to serve military families

In 2014 Joining Community Forces Indiana (JCFI) was created to better serve service members, veterans and their families. An outgrowth of the Obama administration’s Joining Forces initiative, JCFI educates nongovernmental organizations, departments of state government, corporations, policymakers, local leaders and works to build and maintain robust working relationships among Indiana communities.

The JCFI Executive Committee facilitates workgroups that address yearly priorities. Each workgroup is comprised of interested professionals and agencies as well as a representative from the Executive Committee. 2019 workgroup priorities include:

  • financial literacy training opportunities;
  • distribution of up-to-date information on how to secure emergency financial assistance;
  • awareness about suicide prevention strategies;
  • providing suicide prevention training for individuals and organizations; and
  • addressing the immediate and long-term needs of homeless and at risk individuals.

MFRI program administration specialist and MFRI liaison, Rena Sterrett, said communication is key to serving military families across Indiana communities.

“The Executive Committee strives to communicate with local groups across the state that serve military and veteran families. Communication between the Executive Committee and Indiana groups helps to strengthen collective efforts in helping military and veteran families across the state of Indiana.”

Learn more by visiting the JCFI Facebook page or contacting Sterrett at rsterret@purdue.edu.

JCFI is a collaboration between the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University, the Indiana National Guard (INNG), the Indiana Department of Veterans Affairs (IDVA), the Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA). These organization form the JCFI Executive Committee.

MFRI partners with Military REACH in support of research award

Each year the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University presents the MFRI Excellence in Research on Military and Veteran Families Award. The award is given to the top research paper for the selected year.

Nominations or applications are accepted, and authors have no idea their work is being considered. Instead, a large panel of accomplished scholars examines every relevant article published during the eligible year. Through multiple rounds of review that include standardized quantitative assessments, reviewers arrive at the honored selection.

This year MFRI is partnering with Military REACH Project to identify and select the winning paper.

Like MFRI, Military REACH strives to support military families by bridging the gap between research and practice. A partnership between Auburn University, the U.S. Departments of Defense and Agriculture, Military REACH produces summaries of recent family-based military research highlighting implications for families, helping professionals, and those who work to support military families; summaries are disseminated monthly by newsletter and more often on social media.

“We are excited to work with MFRI because this award highlights both the needs of military and veteran families and honors high quality research that can be translated into supports for those families,” said Mallory Lucier-Greer, an associate professor at Auburn and director of Military REACH. “The partnership is a great way to utilize the resources of Military REACH, as we track current research in real time, and the platform of MFRI to celebrate rigorous scientific research and advocate for evidence-informed policies and practices for military and veteran families.”

Learn more about the MFRI Excellence in Research on Military and Veteran Families Award here.

About Military REACH

The purpose of Military REACH, a partnership between Auburn University and the DoD-USDA Partnership for Military Families, is to bridge the gap between military family research and practice. To facilitate the DoD’s provision of high-quality support to military families, our objective is to make research practical and accessible. We do this by producing research summaries with action-oriented implications for our target audiences: families, helping professionals, and those who work on behalf of military families. Our team critically evaluates and synthesizes military family research related to issues of family support, resilience, and readiness. We identify meaningful trends and practical applications of that research, and then, we deliver research summaries and action-oriented implications to our target audiences.

MFRI advisory council member helps launch military children’s book

Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University advisory council member Nora Spinks joined leaders, early childhood professionals, parents and children to celebrate the launch of a picture book titled, We Have Superpowers.

The book launch took place at the National Capital Region Military Families Resource Centre (MFRC) in Ottawa Canada, and highlighted the courage of children who support military and veteran families. The book also encourages discussions about the impacts of physical and mental injuries on families.

Spinks, CEO of The Vanier Institute of the Family, spoke about the importance of expanding the number of resources for professionals working with military families. She also noted the significant part professionals’ endorsement for the role We Have Superpowers will play in engaging with children both in practical settings and educational contexts.

“The book highlights different superhero parents being recognized, celebrated and supported by children with superpowers,” Spinks said. “It is a wonderful story for all children. This book will help build military literacy in homes and early learning environments.”

The story book is currently distributed across Canada, with a companion resource titled Early Learning Childhood Professionals and Practitioners Working With Military and Veteran Families, inspired by MFRI’s How to Help series. These resources will be included in families transition materials and as a tool for early childhood educators. 

About the National Capital Region MFRC

The mission of the National Capital Region Military Families Resource Centre is to contribute to the well-being of Canadian Armed Forces families; enabling a mission-ready force that protects Canadians and Canadian interests across the country and around the world.

Hungry veterans need help. Here’s how communities can provide it.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Nearly one in four U.S. veterans faces hunger. These are the people who have served overseas, responded to disaster areas and sworn to protect their country. 

A recent study by Purdue University’s Military Family Research Institute at 10 faith-based food pantries in Indiana and Kentucky – five pantries in each state – suggests there is promise for underserved veterans and their families.

Through its Reaching Rural Veterans initiative, the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) developed a pilot program to evaluate resource and food security in rural veterans. It is the first such study, and results were published in the Journal of Public Health.

Reaching Rural Veterans helps local food pantries develop and host monthly resource fairs that bring together organizations to make sure veterans have access to veterans’ associations, benefits, housing, health care and other needs.

To participate in the program, the food pantry staff was asked to plan resource fairs and complete cultural competency training, including awareness of issues facing veterans. Purdue’s MFRI and the University of Kentucky’s Department of Family and Consumer Sciences led the training.

“Working with pantries is cost-effective because they already have physical locations and staff,” said Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, a professor of human development and family studies, and director of the MFRI. “Several pantries still continue to do these events.”

The Salvation Army in Anderson, Indiana, is one of the sites that continues with a regular resource fair and food distribution. It became the site after another organization discontinued hosting the program.

According to databases, there are more than 9,000 veterans in Indiana’s Madison County. Shelly DeLong, social services coordinator for The Salvation Army in Anderson, said the program has helped veterans who have served in war or peace, but most of them are 50-plus years old, have health issues or have a disability.

DeLong was a member of the initial community work group in Madison County and has been working with volunteers to draw more veterans into the event.

On April 5, DeLong and a group of volunteers served beef and noodles, green beans, mashed potatoes, cake and drinks to 23 veterans and two family members who came to The Salvation Army for a resource fair. In addition to the meal, fellowship and the occasional war story, the veterans and their families were able to leave the event with food and appointments to address their various issues.

 “It is good to see them come in, get checked and get access to resources. Most of them do use the food pantry,” DeLong said.

“One of the surprises was that we had contact with so many veterans,” MacDermid Wadsworth said. The goal, originally 300 participants, was easily surpassed, with 1,094 veterans — 430 in Indiana and 664 in Kentucky. “That was the reason we did this, as those veterans earned the right to get resources.”

The study saw improvements in food pantry staff’s knowledge of veterans’ needs, as well as increased participation by veterans.

Of the 1,094 participants, 234 veterans participated in follow-ups regarding food security, social services and health conditions. The group discovered the need to improve dietary intake, which would help with chronic health conditions. In addition, the results could lead to overall health improvements if veterans have access to proper programs and benefits.

 “By developing Reaching Rural Veterans, we are trying to extend the front door of the Department of Veterans Affairs to these rural areas,” MacDermid Wadsworth said.

The study was a collaborative work by members of Purdue’s College of Health and Human Sciences, including MacDermid Wadsworth; Andrea Wellnitz, a project manager at MFRI; Breanne Wright, a doctoral student; and Heather Eicher-Miller, an associate professor of nutrition science.

This work was supported by the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Rural Health (VA251-15-C-0041). 

Writer: Matthew Oates, 765-496-2571, oatesw@purdue.edu, @mo_oates

Sources: Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, shelley@purdue.edu , @MFRIPurdue

Shelly DeLong, Salvation Army, 765-644-2538, shelly_delong@usc.salvationarmy.org 

Note to Journalists: For a copy of the paper, please contact Matthew Oates, Purdue News Service, at oatesw@purdue.edu


ABSTRACT

Reaching rural veterans: a new mechanism to connect rural, low-income US Veterans with resources and improve food security

B.N. Wright, S. MacDermid Wadsworth, A. Wellnitz and H.A. Eicher-Miller

Background: Rural, low-income US veterans face additional barriers to accessing food and resources compared to urban veterans. Based on both social-ecological and cultural competence approaches, the Reaching Rural Veterans (RRV) pilot intervention built on the existing infrastructure of food pantries to improve food security and connect rural, low-income veterans with resources. This article describes the process of implementing and evaluating RRV.

Methods: Five rural food pantries within each of two states, Indiana and Kentucky, received training in cultural competence and held monthly outreach events where food and services were offered to veterans. Veteran adult participants completed an assessment at baseline and 3- month follow-up that measured food security using the US Household Food Security Survey Module and self-reported resource enrollment. Repeated measures logistic regression models evaluated the odds of improving food security and resource enrollment from baseline to follow up (significance P < 0.05).

Results: RRV recruited 234 participants; 53% completed the follow-up assessment. At follow-up, the odds of household (P = 0.009) and adult (P = 0.01) food security increased, as did enrollment in one or more of the following resources: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Supplemental Security Income, General Assistance or Assistance from the Township Trustee (P = 0.005).

Conclusions: RRV yielded promising preliminary results of improved food security and resource use.

Regions Bank VP offers financial insight and resources for military and veteran families

Military and veteran families have different financial needs and opportunities in comparison to their civilian counterpart. Schiela Pena, a military child, is the vice president of community relations at Regions Bank. Listen to her discuss financial options and resources for military and veteran families.

Serving alongside the service member, perspective from military spouses

May is National Military Appreciation Month. Military spouses are an important part of the military lifestyle. Listen to Josie Beets and Yvonne Coombes talk about serving along side their military spouse.