EFMP: supporting families with special needs

  • Published
  • By Airman Ashley J. Cass
  • 28th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
Airmen and their families face many obstacles and make untold sacrifices in service to their nation.

In addition to these challenges, many families also require additional support for a loved one with special needs. Fortunately, there is a program in the Airman and Family Readiness Center that provides just that.

It's the Exceptional Family Member Program, a program that ensures Airmen and their families have access to the specific care their enrolled family member requires.

Nicole Reynolds, Ellsworth's EFMP coordinator, said the program is a way to support the base mission by supporting active-duty Airmen who have family members that require special consideration.

"The goal of the program is to assist the active-duty member with the dual demands of having a mobile military career, as well as having one or more family members at home with special needs," Reynolds said.

Cindi Jones, an Ellsworth spouse and stay-at-home mom, can vouch for the quality of the vital assistance being provided by the EFMP staff. Jones and her family recently moved to South Dakota from Alaska, and were thankful for the presence of an EFMP coordinator on base to help facilitate their child's enrollment in specific educational and developmental programs.

"Our needs were met at the very beginning," Jones said. "We were able to let the school know about our needs and that we were coming. Nicole was integral in setting that up. It was as smooth of a transition as it could be."

Reynolds explained that she not only works with the 28th Medical Group, but also with other organizations to keep base families informed on the many resources available to them in the local area. She also ensures they are enrolled in the educational programs and receive the medical treatment their loved one requires.

"I work with the schools, as far as special education goes," Reynolds said. "I let the schools know when families with special needs are coming to Ellsworth, and what kind of needs the kids have."

Reynolds said one key task is explaining the program to people. For example, some may not understand that being enrolled in the EFMP doesn't affect an Airman's promotion rate or the ability to receive certain assignments.

"It's a matter of educating the military audience," Reynolds said. "We don't try to impede people in any way, we try to help them."

Jones said one key function of the program is ensuring families aren't assigned to a base that will not be able to accommodate their family member's needs.

"The EFMP is so important to my family," Jones said. "When we look at it together, the person who's really benefiting is the exceptional family member."

Reynolds said she enjoys making a difference in the lives of Ellsworth families.

"The important thing for me is making sure members get assigned to bases where their families can be taken care of," Reynolds said. "If their families are being taken care of, then they're going to be better active-duty members."

For more information, or to enroll in the EFMP, call (605) 385-4663 or visit www.ellsworthefmp.org.