Category Archives: military families

Military Families

Military Caregiving Virtual Learning Event…Coming Fall 2015


We are getting a jump start on the planning process for the MFLN Military Caregiving Virtual Learning Event (VLE), happening this fall. Mark your calendars for a three-part series for military service providers that will focus on an integrated approach to professional development. The VLE will highlight the core competencies to working with military family caregivers of wounded service members and caregivers of special needs individuals.

The three-part series includes topic areas in Building Trust and Credibility (October 28); Cultural Competencies (November 4); and Compassion Fatigue (November 18). Each event encompasses the overall theme of the professional development training – targeting the “core competencies” of our professional work with clientele.  Our goal is to re-energize the working environment and inspire personal and professional growth in order to better serve our service members and their families.

The VLE is so unique from our normal professional development webinars because participants can gain a more engaged training that is similar to a professional conference but in a virtual format. The events are also more compatible with the busy schedules of military helping professionals and provide training on a virtual level to alleviate the travel restrictions and budget cuts that many of us are faced with.

Oh and did I mention this is a FREE training that is open to the public, not only military professionals, but to all who may be interested?

Be on the lookout for more details to come. In the meantime, begin penciling in the VLE trainings into your calendar.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on July 3, 2015.

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Family Relationships as the Context for Intervention

By Jenna M. Weglarz-Ward

Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, It's A Family Portrait, January 23, 2011]
Creative Commons Licensing [Flickr, It’s A Family Portrait, January 23, 2011]
Relationships between young children and their primary caregivers are the foundation for child development, growth, and learning. These early relationships have the potential to support or hinder a child’s development. Positive relationships help build neural connections and effective executive functioning necessary in later in life. Challenging relationships may hinder the development of strong and integrative connections and impact self-regulation and learning. (Learn more about relationships and brain development at the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (

To this end, the Individuals with Disability Education Act (IDEA) Part C early intervention services stress the need for family-centered practices including teaming and collaboration with family members as well as intervention based on family preferences and routines (OSEP, 2008). Intervention should enhance the ability of caregivers to support their children’s development.

Across professional disciplines such as occupational and speech therapy (see list below of professional recommended practices), intervention should:

  • take place in children’s natural environments such as family homes and community settings (e.g., child care programs, libraries, restaurants, grocery stores),
  • be embedded in functional and meaningful routines such as play, household chores, mealtimes, or bathing,
  • be carried out by caregivers with the support and coaching of professionals, and
  • provide families with community resources to meet their individual needs.

By developing interventions that are focused on the relationships and interactions between children and family members, families recognize the importance of their relationships and are empowered to support their children’s learning. In order to achieve this goal, providers need to consider the needs of each family and the unique child-caregiver relationships. This can be challenging for professionals as many are trained in medical models or classroom settings that focus intervention directly on the patient or child. Seeking professional development and support for this model of relationship-based intervention can help professionals develop these important skills.

Professional Recommended Practices

  • Copple, C., & Bredekamp, S. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth to age 8. Washington DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.
  • Division of Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children. (2014). DEC   Recommended Practices for Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education.
  • Division of Early Childhood of the Council for Exceptional Children. (2014). DEC position statement: The role of special instruction in early intervention.
  • American Occupational Therapy Association. (2010). AOTA practice advisory on occupational therapy in early intervention.
  •  American Occupational Therapy Association. (2009). FAQ: What is the role of occupational therapy in early intervention.
  •  Chiarello, L., & Effgen, S. K. (2006). Updated competencies for physical therapists working in early intervention. Pediatric Physical Therapy, 18, 148-158.
  • American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. (2008). Core knowledge and skills in early intervention speech-language pathology practice [Knowledge and Skills]. Available from

This post was written by Jenna Weglarz-Ward, EdM & Michaelene M. Ostrosky, PhD, members of the MFLN FD Early Intervention team, which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Partners’ Perceptions of PTSD Symptoms

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Creative Commons [Flickr, I Against I, January 1, 2012]
Creative Commons [Flickr, I Against I, January 1, 2012]
Recently, two researchers from Virginia Tech [1] examined factors related to reintegration stress from the perspective of military members and military service member partners.  The findings of the study offer insight into how partners may view military members’ mental health and PTSD symptoms, and how these symptoms impact reintegration after deployment.

Participants in the study totaled 675 and included 380 service members and 295 partners of service members. All participants were the parent of at least one minor child, and all service members had experienced one or more deployments. Participants and partners were asked if the service member had received a diagnosis of PTSD, and if they believed that the military member experienced symptoms of PTSD (regardless of diagnosis).  The service members and the partners rated their perceptions of the military members’ mental health by responding to a survey rating the frequency of 5 emotional states including: nervous, calm, downhearted, happy, and discouraged.  Reintegration stress was determined using a measure designed specifically for this study, with survey questions tailored to military members and partners. It is notable that the partners were not necessarily those of the military service members in the study, so data analyses were not from family dyads and were not linked.

The results of the study indicated that the presence of PTSD symptoms, self-reported mental health, and the mental health of the military member as reported by the partner all affected the level of reintegration stress in military families. Military members and partners both rated their mental health symptoms, as well as those of their partner, as high. Partners’ perceptions of PTSD-related symptoms in military service members was a big contributor to reintegration stress. Partners also reported that the military member’s symptoms affected daily life more than the military member did. Interestingly, having an actual diagnosis of PTSD was not significantly related to reintegration stress in this study.

When working with military service members who have experienced deployment and their partners, it is important to consider individual perceptions and take that into account when treating couples or families.  In some instances, partners may be more acutely aware of PTSD symptoms, and their impact, than the service members themselves.



[1] Marek, L. I., & D’Aniello, C. (2014). Reintegration stress and family mental health: Implications for therapists working with reintegrating military families. Contemporary Family Therapy, 36(4), 443-451. doi:10.1007/s10591-014-9316-4

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Key Takeaways from Respite Training

In this month’s MFLN Military Caregiving webinar, the topic at hand was “Respite,” with an emphasis in understanding the value of respite care for family caregivers. As the month of June draws to a close, let’s recap some of the items and key takeaways you can use in your work with clientele from ‘The Value of Respite for Family Caregivers’ training.

Respite care is a term used by professionals who work with family caregivers on finding ways to care for themselves. This month’s webinar presenter and caregiver consultant, Mary Brintnall-Peterson, Ph.D. defined respite in her training as essentially “having ME time.” No matter if we are professionals or family caregivers, we can all use a little “me time.” The question is, “Do we really understand the importance of caring for ourselves and alternative care solutions?”

If we look back at Dr. Brintnall-Peterson’s presentation, she identified potential benefits to using respite such as, reduce caregiver stress, improve health and well-being, minimize precursors to abuse and neglect, and strengthen marriages and family stability. She also discussed the two types of respite care: (1) home-based respite and (2) out-of-home respite. If we break down the two types of respite care further, examples include:

  • Home-based respite: professional services; sitter companion services; family and friends
  • Out-of-home respite: Assisted living facilities; residential facilities; camps; retreats, hospital type programs

The June caregiver training also increased awareness of available respite resources for both caregivers of wounded service members and those caring for individuals with special needs. What was so unique about this particular professional development webinar was that the presenter engaged participants with thought-provoking questions and scenarios on how they would respond to their particular clientele using the information they learned in the training. Dr. Brintnall-Peterson left participants with six key takeways to use when reflecting on their caregiver clientele and caseload. Review the image below and think about your own caregiver clientele and how these tips can be helpful as you work through your cases.

Respite Recap

If you missed this month’s caregiving webinar, The Value of Respite for Family Caregivers, there is still time to watch the recording and receive continuing education credit or a certificate of completion.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on June 26, 2015.

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VLE #MFLNchat recap

The Personal Finance Virtual Learning Event, held June 2-4, featured daily Twitter chats focused on the topics discussed in that day’s webinar. The webinar speakers were on hand to answer questions and to dig deeper in to the topics discussed in the 90-minute sessions. Here, you can view all the tweets shared during these daily chats, including great discussion on promoting positive financial behavior change and resources to share and use with clients.

Adolescents from Military Families: Attitudes Toward Mental Health Care

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich

Creative Commons [Flickr, 2015 RT Convention YA Alley, May 26, 2015]
Creative Commons [Flickr, 2015 RT Convention YA Alley, May 26, 2015]
We reviewed the barriers to mental health care reported by military wives in the previous blogs:  Military Wives Matter and Mental Health Care Needs of Military Wives. What are the barriers expressed by teens in military families?

Military children are 2.5 times more likely to develop psychological problems than American children in general, but their utilization of mental health services is low. Adolescents from military families experience stressors unique to the military environment, such as parental deployment and frequent moves. As a result of these stressors they may be more likely to display depressive disorders and/or behavioral disorders. In a recent study by Becker and colleagues, the researchers used structured focus groups and interviews to develop feedback on the barriers to seeking mental health treatment among military families with adolescents [1].

Focus groups and interviews were conducted with 12 parents of adolescent children who had experienced deployment, 13 adolescents with an average age of 13, and 20 mental health providers who had worked with adolescents from military families. Over one-half of the parents participating reported that their adolescent was experiencing emotional or behavioral problems.  A total of 7 focus groups or interview discussions were conducted with the 25 family members.  Service providers participated in individual interviews in person, or by telephone.  Themes that emerged in the analysis were divided into two groups: (1) Internal barriers related to attitudes; and (2) External barriers related to time and effort or financial concerns. The most often cited internal barriers related to attitudes for not seeking mental health care among teens were: lack of interest or perceived relevance, stigma, an ethic of self-reliance, and confidentiality concerns.

Teens most often reported a lack of perceived relevance in seeking help.  Teens reported that they would not participate in services that “required them to talk about their feelings” or that they didn’t need help or did not have problems.  Adolescents also reported that they were self-reliant and wanted to “figure things out” on their own and cited their military family’s attitude of self-reliance.  This attitude of self-reliance in military families was consistent with therapists’ observations – acknowledging military families’ strong sense of independence.  They also expressed concerns about what others would think of them if they attended therapy, particularly other family members who had a negative view of therapy. Confidentiality was the most often cited reason for not seeking help when all three groups were considered, and was often related to concerns about the effect of seeking mental health care on the military member’s career.

Additionally, external barriers were cited as a reason for not pursuing mental health services. Time, effort, logistical concerns, and financial barriers were all found to be external barriers impacting the decision to pursue mental health services. Families and therapists reported a high number of activities and appointments during the teen years, and the ability to handle the busy schedules becomes even more challenging for families during a parental deployment, when the burden of family responsibilities fall to the remaining parent.

When addressing the needs of a teen it is important to consider that a teen’s attitude toward seeking help for the stressors of military life may vary from those of their parents.  While the ethic of self-reliance may be a family norm, considering barriers due to a perceived lack of relevance and stigma may be particularly important when working with adolescents. It is also important to consider the external realities faced by many military families that can make participation in therapy challenging.


[1] Becker, S. J., Swenson, R. R., Esposito-Smythers, C., Cataldo, A. M., & Spirito, A. (2014). Barriers to seeking mental health services among adolescents in military families. Professional Psychology: Research And Practice, 45(6), 504-513. doi:10.1037/a003612.

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Meet our Newest MFLN Military Caregiving Special Needs Team

The MFLN Military Caregiving concentration is rolling out new educational programming geared to not only caregivers of wounded service members but to those caring for individuals with special needs. The Special Needs area delivers research-based training, information and learning tools for family support providers who work with military families who have special medical and educational needs.

Delivering quality professional development opportunities, this online learning community provides individuals with access to webinar training sessions, social work CEU’s, fact sheets and a variety of learning resources.   Family support providers will connect with experts via Twitter, Facebook and online blogs which highlight best practices and key issues in effectively serving military families.

To meet our newest team members of the MFLN Military Caregiving Special Needs concentration, click on the video below. Alicia Cassels, 4-H Extension Specialist and Christopher Plein, Ph.D., Professor of Public Administration, from West Virginia University talk a little about the introduction of special needs within MFLN and project initiatives currently underway.

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on June 19, 2015.

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Twitter Chats: A Professional Development Tool


By Barbara O’Neill, Ph.D., CFP®

Rutgers Cooperative Extension

In early June, as part of the 3-Day Virtual Learning Event (VLE), the Military Families Learning Network (MFLN) held a series of three Twitter chats using the hash tag #MFLNchat. The eXtension VLE Learn page with archived webinars is  located here. The purpose of the Twitter chats was to extend conversations in the “chat” section of the webinars about encouraging positive financial behaviors through motivation, coaching, and counseling. A Storify summary of the three Twitter chats can be found here. Storify is a free online application that allows people to create “stories” from the text, links, and photos found within in tweets and Facebook and Google+ messages.

Prior to the three Twitter chats, a “Lite” Twitter Cohort was held to introduce chat participants to the basics of using Twitter. Each day for two weeks, cohort 36 cohort participants received e-mailed messages about using Twitter. Materials for the cohort are available here. Participants used the hashtag #twittercohort to hold asynchronous conversations with one another.

Twitter chats, on the other hand, involve synchronous conversations. As the number of Twitter users has grown since its inception in 2006, so has the use of Twitter for financial education. An increasingly outreach method is Twitter chats, which use the hashtag (#) symbol to hold a “conversation” through an organized stream of tweets from people interested in the same topic (e.g., credit).

The formatting convention used to organize Twitter chat threads is Q1 for Question 1 and A1 for participant responses to that question, with 8 to 10 different questions per one-hour chat. All users have do is log in to a Twitter application such as or at a designated time and time zone, type in the hashtag for the chat, and start responding to and/or asking questions to engage with others.

The MFLN plans future professional development Twitter chats and encourages Personal Financial Management Program (PFMP) staff to participate. Feel free to “lurk” for a while, if you’d like, and then jump in. Another good idea is to observe, and then participate in, these regular personal finance Twitter chats: #creditchat (Experian, 3 p.m. ET on Wednesdays), #wbchat (WiseBread, 3 p.m. ET on Thursdays), #cashchat (@MsMadamMoney, 12 noon ET on Fridays), and #mcchat (Money Crashers, 4 p.m. ET on Fridays).

Below are some screen shots that further explain how to navigate a Twitter chat:
  1. Go to as
  2. In the top, right corner click on “Sign In”
  3. If you are already logged into your Twitter account, this box will prompt you to “Authorize TweetChat…to use your account”. You then click on “Authorize App”


  1. If not it will ask you to log into your Twitter account. Log in with your Twitter handle and password.


  1. Then, in the top left hand corner, type in the hashtag you are following and then press, “Go”


For Example:
  • Experian Tweetchat’s hashtag is “#CreditChat”
  • Wisebread Tweetchat’s hashtag is “#WBchat”
  1. You will then be taken to a stream of Tweets, only with the hashtag you typed in during the last step.


  1. You can then Tweet or Retweet whatever you wish, and the application will add the hashtag on for you so that you too can join the conversation!




Use these icons when you are tweeting:

 RespondThis allows you to Tweet at, or respond to, someone directly.

RetweetThis allows you to ReTweet someone else’s tweet; i.e., send it to your Twitter followers.

FavoriteThis allows you to Favorite someone’s Tweet; i.e., indicate that you like what they have shared.

Happy tweeting! I hope to see you on a personal finance Twitter chat soon.

Military Spouses of Children with Special Care Needs

By Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD

Creative Commons [Flickr, Little J makes big strides with the help of private-duty nurse, April 8, 2010]
Creative Commons [Flickr, Little J makes big strides with the help of private-duty nurse, April 8, 2010]
What social supports are important in maintaining the health of military spouses with special needs children?  Are they different than spouses without a special needs child? Researchers Farrell, Bowen, and Swick recently examined social supports and resiliency among military spouses who have children with special care needs [1].

Military families function within a demanding environment, sometimes involving a parent who is frequently deployed, experiencing numerous relocations, and having rapidly changing social networks due to the relocation of neighbors and friends.  While raising a child with disabilities can increase stress in the family, many families manage to adapt and thrive.  Recently, models of family support have focused on family and community support systems and their positive influence on family health.

The military provides a broad range of support for spouses with children who have special needs, including educational and developmental services, family information and education programs, and support from military leaders who have an assigned responsibility for the welfare of service members in their command.  Social support is also available to spouses through the military member, family, friends, and the community.

Participants in the Farrell, Bowen and Swick study included 775 female spouses who did not have a special needs child, and 147 female spouses who did have a special needs child.  The researchers used the Support and Resiliency Inventory-Spouse survey to examine eight potential sources of social network support and then compared the sources of support with self-reported coping success, parent management, and support for others.  Sources of social support were evaluated individually and included:

  • Military member
  • Relationships
  • Extended family
  • Friends
  • Neighbors
  • Military unity
  • Community
  • Overall military

Results of the study indicated that spouses with special needs children have significantly less support than spouses who do not have a special needs child.  Support from friends showed the largest difference in support, with parents of special needs children reporting significantly lower support.  Military member support showed the smallest variance between groups.

Support is important in maintaining mental health.  When working with parents with special needs children, it is important to consider that parents may receive less support from their family and friends than families that do not include a special needs child.  There may be many reasons for this. For example, it can be challenging to find appropriate childcare when you have a special needs child, which can make participation in social activities more challenging. This could lead to parental isolation, and more challenges finding and receiving social support. Helping families find support groups or agencies that provide supportive services can be beneficial. Encouraging the development of support systems that include spouses, close relationships, and family may help to boost resiliency and mental health in military families.


[1] Farrell, A. F., Bowen, G. L., & Swick, D. C. (2014). Network supports and resiliency among U.S. military spouses with children with special health care needs. Family Relations, 63(1), 55-70. doi:10.1111/fare.12045

This post was written by Jay Morse & Heidi Radunovich, PhD, members of the MFLN Family Development (FD) team which aims to support the development of professionals working with military families. Find out more about the Military Families Learning Network FD concentration on our website, on Facebook, on Twitter, YouTube, and on LinkedIn.

Chaplain’s Advice on Responding to Severe Stories from Warriors

“We practice how to tap into emotions and use it to help us understand and reflect back to the Service Member.”  – Captain David Reedy, U.S. Air Force Chaplain

As a caregiver, your service member may open up to you about really severe stories or memories that have impacted them while serving. This can also hold true to many military helping professionals as they work with their clients. You may be thinking internally that the information the loved one or service member is sharing is hard to hear, but know it took a lot for that individual to really divulge. In those moments of deep conversation, barriers that once held him or her back are beginning to breakdown and you can get a sense of what their needs may be in regards to care management.

Watch and listen as Captain David Reedy, Air Force Chaplain at Joint Base San Antonio offers tips and benefits to handling emotional stories from service member’s military experiences.

How do you feel about Captain Reedy’s response? What are some things that you have found with regards to your wounded warrior’s stories?

This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on June 5, 2015.