HILL AIR FORCE BASE, Utah — “2019 is the year of events for us, we have so many events coming up,” said Tammy Custer, Exceptional Family Member Program-Family Support specialist.
EFMP-FS started off the year with two bowling events at Hill Air Force Base’s bowling center where families, and even a service dog, got to bowl, have fun, and connect with other families on base who also have dependents with special needs.
“When you are at an event, it opens up a whole new realm of making friends, making connections, and feeling safe,” said Alysse Seligman, EFMP-FS specialist. “Everybody feels comfortable, because they get it.”
“I think it is amazing they had the bowling event so kids like our daughter can get out of the house, have fun, and meet other kids,” said Jennifer Bartlow. “We don’t have to worry about saying the wrong thing, we can just have fun.”
The Air Force is funding five events this year for EFMP-FS. “Previous years they’ve only been able to fund one event per year, so this is amazing,” said Seligman.
“We are also doing some stuff we’ve never done before,” she said. “We’re going to take the families to Boondocks. We’re also going to do an event just for the parents to give them the opportunity to get together just as parents.”
Custer mentioned they will be offering new classes this year such as an Autism 101 coming in April and a two-day specialized training of military parents, or STOMP, which goes over everything parents of special needs children need to know.
Holding family events is just one small part of the program’s way of helping Air Force families with special needs. Their main purpose is information and referral for non-medical needs.
“We work closely with the clinic because sometimes we find our families do need something medical and we make sure we get them in the right place over there,” said Custer.
The special needs coordinators at Hill’s medical clinic identify eligible Air Force families with special medical and education requirements, enrolls the families into EFMP-FS, and also requests an Assignment Limitation Code “Q” be assigned to the service member. This ensures the families have access to necessary services upon re-assignment either within the United States or overseas.
“If you can imagine being a family with a member with a special need just moving from place to place, every time you go to a new place you have to find all these services you need for support and set up everything all over again,” said Custer. “It takes a toll on a family when they have to do that.”
Every Air Force installation now has an EFMP-FS representative, with many, including Hill AFB, having dual coordinators because of the number of “Q” coded families.
“When you think about all the pieces, what people need to know, and just the questions they have and how do they manage them, it’s a huge job,” said Seligman. “Air Force leadership is very keen on making sure that as families move from place to place, we have things set up that allow them to have an easier transition.”
She continued, “When they first started the family support position in 2010 it was 35 installations. Now it’s every installation. You can see the growing importance and emphasis that has been placed on the program because we need to support our families.”
Hill was able to add Seligman as a second coordinator last year because Hill has more than 540 “Q” coded families with more than 700 actual EFMP dependents. And even though the program was designed only for Air Force service members, Custer said they do assist other families from the base, such as other branches stationed at Hill, civilians, and retirees, so the actual number of families they help is much bigger.
EFMP-FS is located within the Airman and Family Readiness Center. For more information on the events and classes planned, call Custer at 801-586-2611 or Seligman at 801-586-4820.