Supporting the families of children with special needs at Hill AFB

Apr 28, 2011

A participant speaks with Alma Burgess, the CPD's Military 360 project evaluator.

In the middle of a stormy spring here in Utah, there was a bright spot for nearly 300 families this past month at Hill Air Force Base. Military families of children with disabilities attended the second annual Families with Special Needs Summit.

The summit is part of the Military Family Support 360 project, a five-year federal grant that began two years ago through the Center for Persons with Disabilities. The CPD works in collaboration with Hill to help plan and implement one-stop centers for military families of children with special needs.

At last year's summit, families met with Hill personnel and the Military Family Support 360 staff, in discovery sessions. They shared specific information on what military families who had children with disabilities needed and the challenges they were facing.

This year’s summit theme, “Delivering on the Promise,” showed the base’s commitment to following through with the action plan that came about through those discovery sessions.
According to the 75th Medical Group commander, Col. Don Hickman, the families and support staff have worked hard this past year to complete 36 out of the 42 objectives listed from last year’s plan.

The overall mission of the Family Support 360 program is to build a strong network for military families of children with special needs across the nation. In the future, the project will focus on working with another military organization in Utah and begin replicating the success that they have found at Hill.

Holding the Family Special Needs Summit each year at Hill will help to “identify new and ongoing resources, new issues and concerns,” Hickman said.

The strong partnerships that families built with local community resources last year continued as, once again, families met with more than 80 local service providers who help children with disabilities. Gathering all those providers together in one place is vital in helping families find the services their children need.

Families browsed information booths, attended family training workshops and met with base leadership at a disability awareness luncheon. In a news account from the Ogden Standard Examiner, families said the program has done a lot to support them and simplify their lives.

The base leadership attended a disability awareness luncheon presented by Heather Hebdon, Director of Specialized Training of Military Parents (STOMP) to make them aware of the issues and concerns facing military families.

Families with special needs had previously been served through the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) on base. Now they have the combined efforts of the 360 program that is working with EFMP staff to identify and address the needs of these families. CPD staff members meet regularly with EFMP staff and School Liason staff to address the ongoing needs of the families. They also planned events such as the Families with Special Needs Summits.

They are working on organizing recreational activities throughout the year, like picnics, a Christmas party and visits to aquatic centers and the Weber Ice Sheet.

Participants browse at the summit.

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