Posts Tagged families
By Lisa Daniel
Oct. 11, 2012
The Defense Department is taking internship applications for a program that expands the availability of child care and youth programs, while also giving a leg up to jobseekers in that field, especially military spouses.
DOD and the Agriculture Department formed the Military Extension Internship Partnership in 2010 in concert with a major construction project that started in 2008 to accommodate the growing requests for child care and youth programs, Barbara Thompson, director of DOD’s Office of Family Policy/Children and Youth, told me recently.
“We thought the program up because we had huge child care growth,” she said. “We were going through a big construction program and increasing the number of child development spaces and we knew we needed to do something on the employment side. We wanted to be grooming our staff along the way so we would have experienced people to take on the role of management.”
The MEIP is taking applications for summer internships between Nov. 30 and Jan. 31 on its website. Read the rest of this entry »
By Lisa Daniel
Common Core Standards, No Child Left Behind, STEM, differentiated teaching, merit pay. Keeping up with the latest policies, ideas and buzz words in education is enough to make parents’ – along with more than a few educators’ — heads spin.
That’s why it was a special treat when I got to speak about these trends with Angela Wilson, who traveled here this week to meet Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta and conduct other official business as the Department of Defense Education Activity’s 2012 Teacher of the Year. Read more here.
Wilson has been a key player in national education issues since being awarded the honor last spring, along with other Teacher of the Year winners from each of the states and territories. Since then, Wilson has traveled several times to meet with national education leaders and work on projects to advance teaching, while bringing those experiences back to her seventh-grade language arts and speech students at Vincenza Middle School in Italy.
“It’s been an amazing year,” Wilson said. “It’s really opened my eyes to what’s going on in education around our nation. As teachers, it’s easy to get stuck in what’s happening in your classroom and not looking beyond that.”
Wilson has met with President Barack Obama, whose sister, like Panetta’s, is a teacher. She’s also had conversations with Dr. Jill Biden, who remains a teacher even as she is second lady, as well as Education Secretary Arne Duncan and other public officials. She has attended education conferences and participated in initiatives and met with former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, creator of www.icivics.org, and Microsoft founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, who spent a couple of hours speaking with teachers at the Educational Commission Conference in Atlanta last summer, Wilson said.
“He met with all of us individually … and wanted us to tell him what’s going on in our schools and how he could help,” she said of Gates. “He wrote down what we said,” then Wilson and four other teachers were chosen to be recorded for a Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation video.
“That was really neat that he would turn our thoughts into a video” to advance education, Wilson said. “His goal is to make America one of those really competitive educational societies like it used to be.”
Reports that American students’ standardized test scores are falling below those of their international peers are unsettling, but Wilson said she believes the nation is on the cusp of reversing that trend, in part due to the rapid push for new initiatives. Read the rest of this entry »
By Lisa Daniel
Sept. 17, 2012
The Defense Manpower Data Center is making it easier for service members and their families to get and maintain identification cards.
The center has launched its RAPIDS — Real-time Automated Personnel Identification System — self-service portal to allow anyone with the Defense Department’s common access card, or CAC, to apply for family ID or retirement cards or update dependents’ statuses online.
“It’s really exciting,” Mary Dixon, the center’s director, said. “We’ve been working for some time now to try to improve and transform our whole ID card application process so people can do things online and not spend long hours going to a site and waiting to be seen.”
The change may seem procedural, but its impact will be big for those who, without it, have had to spend countless hours waiting in line with their families to get ID cards. Before RAPIDS, service members, retirees and families had to go together to a Defense Manpower Data Center to submit an application form and wait while the ID card is being made, Dixon said.
“This is big project,” she said. “It takes away time from your work, and if you are separated – maybe the spouse is out on a ship or on deployment or your child is away at college – it makes it a huge problem.”
Now, the CAC holder can go onto the RAPIDS site, call up the listing of their dependents, and fill out and digitally sign form No. 1172-2 for their family members to receive an ID card. That family member then can go alone to the closest DMDC office – they are are listed on the website and linked to Google Maps for driving directions — to pick up the card, Dixon said.
RAPIDS is a win for both the department and families, the director said. “You can do this from your desk,” she said. “As long as your computer is CAC-enabled, it could be from your home or office. You can do it without going to a physical site, which is huge.”
The site also allows you to get a DOD self-service user name and password, known as a DS Logon, that allows you to access several DOD and VA websites with the logon information, rather than a CAC. DS Logon, which is available only to CAC holders, also has a “premium account,” which gives the highest level of access, allowing you to view personal data about yourself in the DOD and VA systems, apply for benefits online, check the status of your claims and update your address records. You must apply in person for the premium account.
DMDC will continue to expand its self-service options to include changing email certificates and information about family members, Dixon said. The upgrades include an effort to put the fingerprints of new recruits into the system, so lost paperwork can easily be replaced, she said.
Dixon said she hopes the site also will one day include alerts for when an ID card is about to expire, and will be integrated with DMDC’s MilConnect website to access all DOD and Veterans Affairs benefits.
“We still have to have the face-to-face, which is important for legitimate ID proofing,” she said. “But we’re saying, ‘What are the ways to reduce the time you spend at the sites?’”
By Lisa Daniel
Sept. 12, 2012
With Election Day just seven weeks away, federal voting officials want to ensure that service members and their families are prepared for their votes to be counted.
The Federal Voting Assistance Program has made the voting process easier than ever for Americans serving overseas, Pam Mitchell, the program’s acting director, says. The website includes a tab for each state’s deadlines for registering to vote and casting absentee ballots. It also has online registration and absentee ballot assistance, and includes a mobile app and a widget.
“We firmly believe that voting assistance for our absentee voters is absolutely the best that it’s ever been,” Mitchell said at a Sept. 5 Pentagon news briefing. “There are a lot of tools in our arsenal to help those voters both register, get an absentee ballot and to exercise their right to vote.”
If you prefer to go in person, there are 221 installation voting offices, all of which the program supports. “We’ve spent a lot of time reaching out to every single one,” Mitchell said.
The Military Postal Service Agency provides free, expedited ballot delivery and ballot tracking to your local election office for overseas-based service members and their families. Go to your local post office or postal clerk, use the Label 11 DOD form on your absentee ballot envelope and mail it. Go to www.usps.com to track the status of your ballot, according to the program’s website.
If you haven’t received your ballot by Oct. 6, use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot, available on the website, as back-up. For each office for which you vote, write in either a candidate’s name or their party designation, the website says.
For additional help with the absentee voting process, contact FVAP at email@example.com or call 1-800-438-8683, DSN 425-1584 (CONUS)/312-425-1584 (OCONUS). It also is available on Facebook and you can follow on Twitter at @FVAP.
“Our goal is to make sure that anyone who wants to vote has the resources and tolls they need form anywhere in the world to successfully exercise that right,” she said.
By Lisa Daniel
Sept. 8, 2012
With the anniversary of 9/11 upon us, families may be considering how best to commemorate the terrorist attacks of 11 years ago.
Many installations will have remembrance ceremonies, although they likely will be on a smaller scale than for the 10-year anniversary. Regardless of whether you attend such events, how you talk to children about 9/11 is important and especially for military families, according to Dr. Stephen Cozza, associate director of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress at the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda, Md.
“With military families, 9/11 is an opportunity to remind children about the meaning of deployments,” Cozza said. “I think we can get a little disconnected from the mission, and having your parent away is hard. Remembering 9/11 draws us back to understanding what we’re doing [in Afghanistan]. It’s helpful and can lend certain meaning to know the military is still involved.”
And, he added, “There is certainly pride in knowing that your parent is working to prevent this from happening again.”
Discussions with children about 9/11 should be age-appropriate and based on information the child needs and is ready for, as well as the family’s personal connection to the tragedy, Cozza said. For those closely impacted by 9/11, children can benefit by memorializing the day with drawings, crafts, or poetry, or by putting up flags or visiting grave sites, he said.
Cozza suggests limiting children’s viewing of graphic 9/11 images on television and the Internet. Replays of the event can be both confusing and distressing, he said.
But as the topic comes up, it is a good chance for parents to reframe some of what children may have heard about the terrorist attacks, and “it’s a good way for them to know they can talk with their parents about tough issues,” Cozza said.
Children can become anxious from warnings about ongoing terrorist threats, so conversations should focus on safety and preparedness, Cozza said. The anniversary is a good time to explain the increased security at military bases, airports and government buildings, along with the message that such measures keep us safe.
“We don’t want to inundate kids with information that might be frightening for them,” he said. “Our job is to listen and be understanding.”
Cozza, an advisor to Sesame Street’s Let’s Get Ready program for disaster preparedness, framed a discussion with young children this way: “There was terrorist event and that is when people do bad things to hurt people without any reason. This is the time for us to remember the people who died.”
“We never want to promise kids that bad things aren’t going to happen,” but they should know that such events are rare, Cozza said.
Children can feel empowered by being prepared, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency has a website especially for kids to help them prepare for all types of emergencies at www.fema.gov/kids.
“That sense of mastery is really important to kids’ sense of emotional competence,” he said.
The website for the Center for the Study of Traumatic Stress includes pages for helping children through traumatic events, as does that of the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, which includes talking to children about mass shootings.
Cozza said parents should resist inclinations to avoid talking about tough topics. “It’s not that we can’t talk to children about these things, it’s finding the right ways to talk to them. In post-disaster situations, we always want to balance our understanding of risk and resilience and strength.”
By Lisa Daniel
As Missouri National Guard members met with Dr. Jill Biden this week to discuss their family challenges and areas of support, Jenn Whitacre’s feedback was both professional and personal.
As a National Guard family assistance center coordinator in Jefferson City, Whitacre spends her days helping Guard families – pursuing job opportunities, finding childcare, arranging transportation, shoveling snow, and the like. As it turned out, Whitacre’s toughest challenge was her own.
Whitacre’s husband, Army National Guard Spc. Shane Whitacre, returned from a year in Iraq with a shoulder injury that proved more complicated than the couple expected. Shane needed surgery and would not be able to lift anything or drive for six months. In the weeks after the surgery, he would spend six hours each day in a physical therapy chair and another six in an ice pack.
The couple had arranged their schedules around that of their four children, but things got complicated when they learned Shane would not be able to lift their 6-month-old daughter. Jenn had to leave at 6 a.m. for work each day, and daycare didn’t open until after 7. Read the rest of this entry »
Posted by ldaniel in Uncategorized on July 6, 2012
By Lisa Daniel
As Americans were preparing last week to celebrate America’s 236th birthday, hundreds of teenagers from military families were treated to three days of fun and learning here in the nation’s capital.
About 600 teenagers who participate in Boys & Girls Clubs of America in or around military installations flew in with about a hundred of their mentors for “Operation Washington,” a first-time event co-sponsored by BGCA and the Close Up Foundation as part of a partnership grant from the Departments of Defense and Justice, said Kevin McCartney, BGCA’s vice president of government relations.
The program allowed the teens to see in person those symbols of democracy for which their parents fight, and for which they, too, have sacrificed through frequent moves and dealing with deployed parents.
These were no ordinary tours of the Capitol and Washington’s other monuments. Under Close Up’s civics curriculum, the teens’ visit to the World War II, Korean and Vietnam War memorials included a discussion about the role and responsibilities of citizens during wartime. Their tour of the Capitol included meeting with their congressional representatives, and a trip to the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial came with a discussion of civil rights and citizens’ roles in shaping public policy.
Through it all, the teens took part in group discussions about the appropriate size and role of government in a democracy, states versus the federal government, and an in-depth simulation of the legislative process. The teens also met with Attorney Gen. Eric Holder and Education Secretary Arne Duncan, as well as senior Defense Department and White House officials, McCartney said.
“Close Up is really a hands-on experience here in Washington, D.C. It’s a very organized curriculum,” he said. “Everything has education and civics attached to it.”
The participants also were charged with developing a plan to address important issues in their own communities. Judging by their reaction to being in Washington, it sounds like they will do just that.
“These kids were outstanding, and they truly were grateful for this,” McCartney said.
Posted by ldaniel in Uncategorized on June 15, 2012
By Lisa Daniel
American fathers, and especially military fathers, are getting some overdue attention lately with Father’s Day coming up this weekend.
President Barack Obama took time out of his regularly packed daily schedule to sit down to lunch with two dads — Army 1st Lt. Bill Edwards and Army Capt. Joubert Paulino, as well as two local barbers here — as part of the “Fatherhood Buzz” campaign sponsored by the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse and the Department of Health and Human Services. The campaign aims to connect fathers with local fathering resources through barber shops across the nation. Read more here. Watch the video.
Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta also has celebrated fathers. In his Father’s Day message to troops, Panetta thanked fathers serving in uniform for their loyalty and dedication to the country, and for balancing the demands of military and home life.
“I’ve seen how you focus on the mission while enduring extended periods away from loved ones,” he said. “Through it all, you’ve shown courage on the battlefield and tenderness to your families at home.”
Indeed, Panetta noted that not only are fathers “bettering our military and securing our nation,” but also are helping to raise and nurture families.
Edwards and Paulino are just two examples of standout dads, balancing service to their country with service at home. Another amazing military dad is Jeremy Hilton – voted 2011 Military Spouse of the Year by Military Spouse magazine. Hilton, a former Navy officer, gave up his career as a submariner to support his Air Force officer wife and their two children, one with special needs. He is the first father to receive the spouse award. Read more here.
Father’s Day was not recognized as a national observance until 1974 – 58 years after Mother’s Day began. But today’s dads are showing they truly are worthy of the recognition.
As Panetta said, “To fathers and husbands of those who serve: we simply could not do our jobs without your love and support. It is never easy to deal with the challenges and concerns of a deployment, just as it is always hard to take care of everything back at home.”
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
Ask people what their all-time favorite family vacation has been and chances are good national parks will be in most of the answers. I don’t have any science to back that up, but I have been struck by the number of people who recollect their best memories of family bonding in places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and the Grand Canyon.
Somehow, even traveling for hours in a cramped car with cranky kids seems to vanish from the memories of those who have experienced America’s most magnificent places. From the peaks of Alaska’s Denali to the lowlands of Florida’s Everglades, the National Park Service’s 397 national parks and many thousands of historical and archaeological sites and wetlands were each brought into the federal system because they are the best of the best – those places deemed worthy of protecting for everyone to see.
That’s exactly what Interior Secretary Ken Salazar had in mind when he announced yesterday that the $80 annual pass for all the national parks and public lands will be waived for active-duty military members and their dependents, starting May 19, Armed Forces Day.
Salazar said he hopes military members and their families will visit the parks and public lands for fun, rest and relaxation, family bonding, and to experience those places America holds dear. As the Interior secretary said, these are “the very places they not only defend, but that they own.”
The World War II generation had a close connection to the parks, National Park Service Director John Jarvis said, because some military training was done there – such as when the 10th Mountain Division trained on Mount Ranier in Washington – and some places were reserved for a time only for returning service members and their families. Also, the federal government then made a push to improve the parks and add infrastructure for the returning warriors.
“If you talk to folks of that generation, they came back, had kids, got in the station wagon, and did the national park tours,” Jarvis said.
Officials hope today’s generation of troops and families make the same connections. And with national parks – 84 million acres of land and 4.5 million acres of oceans, lakes and reservoirs — in every state except Delaware, many are just a day trip, or less, away.
So, why wait? Play hooky on your Saturday chores, let the kids miss soccer practice, pry the electronics out of their hands, and hop in the SUV. Those mountain trails, battlefields, nature preserves and historic homes are just around the corner.
By Lisa Daniel
April 30, 2012
Education was front and center in Washington last week and at least two major events directly impact the education of military families’ school-age children.
First, Angela Wilson a 7th grade language arts teacher at a Defense Department school in Vicenza, Italy, spent the week in the nation’s capital representing DoD schools as one of four finalists in the annual National Teacher of the Year competition.
Wilson, accompanied by her husband, Chase, who also is a 7th grade teacher at Vicenza Middle School, shined a light on Department of Defense Education Activity schools for both their quality and also on the unique challenges of their students and teachers.
The week’s packed agenda included a ceremony with President Barack Obama at the White House, a reception at the vice president’s home at the U.S. Naval Observatory with Dr. Jill Biden – a teacher so dedicated she continues to teach three days each week while serving as “second lady” – as well as opportunities to discuss education policy with Education Secretary Arne Duncan. The teachers also participated in classes and training of their choice at the Smithsonian, and events with education-focused companies and nonprofits to advance classroom teaching. That, not to mention the discussion these best and brightest had amongst themselves and will no doubt share with their colleagues, should comfort DODEA families.
The knowledge and skills the Wilsons will bring back to the classroom is vast. But even more important, Angela Wilson told American Forces Press Service, will be her message to students that American leaders – all the way to the president – care about them and their education.
“They do value education, you can tell,” she said.
The news got even better when Duncan sent an April 24 letter to all public school superintendents – where 80 percent, or 1.2 million, of students from military families are enrolled — encouraging them to understand and respond to the needs of military students, many of whom change school districts more than a half dozen times in their parents’ military careers. Read the rest of this entry »