Online Tool Focuses on Exceptional Family Members

By C. Todd Lopez

WASHINGTON (Feb. 10, 2021) -- The Exceptional Family Member Program's online tool, EFMP & Me, recently got an upgrade that provides leadership and program service providers with access to an array of information and checklists curated especially for them.

"There are four specific users we identified for EFMP & Me, and now they each have their own section, their own content and an information source for their particular role within the Exceptional Family Member Program," said Karen M. Terry, program analyst with the Defense Department's Office of Military Community and Family Policy.

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The four identified users are family members, service members, leaders and providers.

The DOD identifies family members in the Exceptional Family Member program as having a special medical and/or educational need that meet the criteria for enrollment into the program, Terry said.

Terry said the Defense Department created the Exceptional Family Member Program to ensure the department considers the needs of military families during the assignment process.

The online tool is part of the suite of resources on Military OneSource. Planning and development began a few years ago when leaders in the Military Community and Family Policy Office recognized that families with special needs may have concerns unique to their situation that are not addressed elsewhere. MC&FP developed EFMP & Me to provide service members and their families an online tool to explore information and resources of interest to them. Users can access the tool via a mobile device or desktop.

"For example, these families have additional concerns or considerations when they're moving," she said. "So, we put together a working group to kind of talk about the idea of checklists. And what became very apparent very quickly was because of the differences in each family's individual concerns and where they might be in their military career, a one-size-fits-all approach would not be sufficient. There are so many variables in every family's military life, and even more so with families in EFMP."

The EFMP & Me tool was born out of those discussions. The tool initially launched in June of last year with resources and checklists tailored for family members. They cover multiple concerns within 10 different topic categories and are customizable to the needs of the user.

"The tool also gives suggestions of resources and tools that they can check out for more support or guidance, like who to ask a particular question to, so that they experience less guesswork and less running around. With EFMP & Me, they have more information on exactly what they need to do to get that PCS move, or whatever it is, done as efficiently as possible," Terry said.

Family members were just the first "profile" available under EFMP & Me. The next profile, made available in August 2020, was for service members.

Terry said they added two new profiles to EFMP & Me in January. One is for military leaders who have service members in their ranks with family members in the EFMP, and one is for service providers within the program.

"The leader's role is to make sure service members are ready to deploy or whatever the military needs them to do and part of that is ensuring family members are being cared for," Terry said.

"A lot of times we find, with family members who have special needs, there's a lot going on at home, and there are a lot of considerations," Terry said. "It may be that you don't just need to find a babysitter; you need to find a babysitter who is skilled at taking care of a child with a particular disability. For those families, it's helpful for the military leader to understand not just that the service member has a family member with special needs, but also that the service member is going to have additional concerns and priorities on their mind."

The EFMP & Me tool gives leaders access to resources that allow them to better understand the Exceptional Family Member Program and better help their service members. It should be a tool that leaders use to be more effective ensuring their units are ready for whatever the military asks the unit to do, Terry said.

Content for the leader profile is organized in a way that is more intuitive to common questions or situations a leader might face when working with service members who have exceptional family members. Any leader, no matter the rank or number of people he or she leads, can benefit from the information.

"We did our best to anticipate what those questions and situations might be and organized the content accordingly," Terry said. "We wanted to make it less intimidating and easier to get them the information they need quickly. The resources included in EFMP & Me can help promote a service member's readiness and, therefore, help the leader in what he or she is trying to do, which is to maintain a high level of overall readiness."

Terry said service providers are the fourth profile on EFMP & Me. Providers can log in to get program information, as well as professional updates, such as continuing education within the EFMP provider community and news from the Office of Special Needs.

"There are a lot of things on EFMP & Me for service providers that's beyond just the basic information that they should already know as a provider," she said. "It's going to be more of a communication hub for our service providers, as well."

Interested family members, service members, leaders and EFMP service providers can access the EFMP & Me tool at https://efmpandme.militaryonesource.mil/. They can also contact Military OneSource 24 hours a day at 1-800-349-9647.

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