We Asked. You Answered!

By Katie Savant, Government Relations Deputy Director, and Bailey Toombs, Public Relations Specialist

Sometimes it seems like the best way to tackle an issue is to identify the problem and create a solution. While that is often the situation, it is just as helpful to identify what is working and replicate it for use in many places. That is exactly the approach the National Military Family Association took in our most recent survey of military families. We wanted to know what services military families use often, and if they considered certain family programs more useful than others. Many of you participated in our survey and we have the highlights!

Our Family Support Program survey was published on our website for six weeks in late February through March of 2009. More than 800 military families participated in our survey with 97% completing the entire survey. This issue-focused survey asked participants to identify which of the 10 listed military family support services they had used in the past 24 months and the usefulness of those programs. It also asked families to rank the military family support services in order of importance and identify the non-military community resources they used. Our survey found the top three most used programs are Family Readiness or Support Groups, Military OneSource, and installation recreation and fitness centers. Compared to past National Military Family Association surveys, these results reflect an increase in the overall use of family support programs. As one military spouse stated, “These programs are the backbone that support our military families.” Another spouse added, “While you don’t often use all of these programs at once, when I needed them – they were there.”

Military families stressed the importance of family support programs and how they not only rely on the programs, but expect them to be available. Another spouse shared, “Our base has been hit by the BRAC; the remaining services do not include some of the ones listed above. We are now an Air National Guard base, with active duty military still attached and not able to use services here since they are not available.”

When asked to rate the usefulness of identified programs, nearly 70% of families selected Military OneSource and recreation and fitness centers as very useful or somewhat useful. Family Support/Readiness Groups followed as a close second with respondents identifying the program as very useful or somewhat useful. Almost 50% of respondents identified Children, Youth and Teen programs as the third option for very useful or somewhat useful.

Perhaps, to deal with deployment stress, families are turning to the fitness center. As one spouse commented, “I can’t imagine functioning well during a deployment and in this high-stress environment without the above services.”

While no one program collectively emerged as the most important for all survey participants, the top three services overall are Family Support/Readiness Group, Children Youth and Teen programs and Recreation and Fitness Centers. One military spouse stated: “Ranking the family support services in order of importance was difficult, they are all important.”

This type of information is critical for the National Military Family Association; we use statistics and anecdotes such as these to voice the opinions of military families worldwide. It is important for policymakers to hear what programs are working, so they can help ensure these programs become available for more military families. Look for more opportunities to participate in future National Military Family Association surveys at www.MilitaryFamily.org.

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