Strengthening the Military Family Readiness System for a Changing American Society
Released in July 2019, this new Consensus Study Report from the Board on Children, Youth, and Families finds that the U.S. Department of Defense and military branches have many programs and policies to support the well-being of military families, but they need to employ a more coordinated and comprehensive approach to matching the needs of individual families to available programs. While most military-connected children and families are doing well, some families are falling through the cracks and would benefit from greater support. The report also concludes that due to the widespread changes in American societal norms and family structures that have occurred in recent years, addressing military famlies’ needs today requires greater attention to the diversity of family structures that exist today.
The DOD’s Military Family Readiness System (MFRS) includes a plethora of policies, programs, services, resources, and practices to support and promote the readiness and resilience of families. However, the MFRS is siloed; suffers from a diffusion of labor and responsibility; and, is at times, fragmented in its delivery of services. The system lacks a comprehensive, coordinated framework to support individual and population well-being, resilience, and readiness among military families. Addressing this weakness could improve the quality of services provided, encourage innovation, and support effective response capabilities.
September 12, 2019 - The National Academies of Sciences held a public meeting to bring together military and nonmilitary stakeholders to discuss the recommendations made by the Committee on the Wellbeing of Military Families in the recently released report, Strengthening the Military Family Readiness System for a Changing American Society. Military families encompass a broad spectrum of American society and have widely diverse needs that have materially changed in recent years as a result of broad changes in society. While most military-connected children and families are doing well, there are subgroups who would benefit from greater support. Recognizing that family well-being is essential to the effectiveness of the military services, the DoD offers the Military Family Readiness System (MFRS), a network of agencies, programs, services, and individuals that works to promotes the well-being and quality of life of military service members and their families. The Committee found that while there is no civilian equivalent to the MFRS, it lacks a comprehensive, coordinated framework to support well-being, resilience, and readiness. During this half day meeting committee members and others will come together to discuss the report recommendations and the actions that the DoD and practitioners can take to strengthen support for military families.
Report Release Webcast July 19, 2019 - The release briefing included an overview of the study process and discussion of the report’s conclusions, recommendations, and key messages.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine will convene an ad hoc committee to study the challenges and opportunities facing military families and what is known about effective strategies for supporting and protecting military children and families, as well as lessons to be learned from these experiences.
The committee will review 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. The committee will also review related literature on childhood resilience and adversity. Specific topics may include:
1. What can be learned from the positive experiences military families have and the protection conferred on them through supports provided by the Department of Defense and service branches, with attention to specific interventions that have been effective and how they might be used at broader scales and in non-military contexts.
2. How the challenges presented by military life, such as frequent moves, exposure to trauma, and economic and other stresses to parents, influence children's social-emotional, physical, biochemical, and psychological development, and how those effects may vary across racial, ethnic, and other characteristics.
3. The mechanisms by which resilience can be fostered in military children and families, with attention to the broader literatures on human development, stress exposure, and resilience, as well as available research from other countries.
4. What is needed to strengthen the support system for military families, with attention to consistency of the current system of services and resources across population subgroups, service branches, and military status (including families who have left the military).
Voices from the Field: The Committee on the Well-being of Military Families (Public Information-Gathering Session) The Committee on The Well-being of Military Families held a public information-gathering session on April 24, 2018 from 11:30 AM to 5:00 PM at the National Academy of Sciences Building (Auditorium), 2101 Constitution Avenue, NW, in Washington, DC. The committee is studying the challenges and opportunities facing military families and what is known about effective strategies for supporting and protecting military children and families, as well as lessons to be learned from these experiences.