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NMFA Government and You E-News - December 5, 2006

Topics in this Week's News Include:

1. In Memoriam: Sydney Tally Hickey

2. New Guide on Adoption Services for Military Families Released

3. TRICARE Invites Family Input on Services for Autistic Children

4. DoD Hosts Conference on Education for Military-Connected Communities

5. Sharing the Spirit of the Season with Service Members and Their Families

6. "Let's Say Thanks" Sends Postcards for Service Members from America's Children

7. Personal Products Needed for Wounded Service Members at Walter Reed

Here's the News!

1. In Memoriam: Sydney Tally Hickey:This weekend, military families and NMFA lost a dedicated advocate andfriend. Sydney Hickey, former head of the NMFA Government RelationsDepartment, NMFA Board of Governors member, and the leading expert onmilitary family issues for two decades, passed away quietly at home,surrounded by her family. While we are sad to report Syd's passing, werejoice in our memories of her and of her long-time service to militaryfamilies.

As the spouse of a retired Naval officer and an Air Force daughter,Sydney was a military family member for most of her life. Trained as anurse, she pursued her chosen specialty of Public Health Nursing in thestates of Washington and Florida, and several in between. "Retiring"from remunerated work on the birth of her first daughter, she became afull time wife and mother and part time volunteer. Her volunteerpositions included:  Navy Relief interviewer, teaching assistant,Brownie and Girl Scout Leader, Red Cross pediatric nurse, Commissary,Exchange and Hospital Board member, President of four Naval Officers'Wives' Clubs, and member of the Ecumenical Commission of the EpiscopalDiocese of Virginia.

In 1983, she joined the NMFA Government Relations staff and servedas the volunteer Vice President of the Department from 1987 to 1990. OnJanuary 1, 1990, she was competitively selected to become theAssociation's first paid professional staff member and served asDirector, Government Relations, until her retirement in October 1999.In retirement, Sydney continued her work with the Government RelationsDepartment as a volunteer consultant on health care issues. She alsoserved on NMFA's Board of Governors until her death. She was a memberof the first National Advisory Council to the Citizen Soldier SupportProgram of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and was alsothe first Chair of the Department of Defense's Beneficiary AdvisoryPanel for the Uniform Formulary, a Congressionally-mandated FederalAdvisory Panel.

Over the years military families everywhere benefited from Sydney'shard work and foresight. She was the driving force behind the set oftransition benefits Congress put in place for service members andfamilies during the drawdown following the first Gulf War. Recognizingthat military families overseas deserved the same access to federalsafety net programs as those living in the United States, Sydney andNMFA worked aggressively for several years to secure the legislationcreating the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition programoverseas. Her "lessons learned" from Operations Desert Shield/DesertStorm helped guide the development of many of today's family readinessprograms. Instrumental in helping to found The Military Coalition, anumbrella organization of thirty-six military-related associations,Sydney always emphasized the effectiveness of joint action on behalf ofservice members, retirees, and veterans, as well as their families andsurvivors. Her only agenda was always military families and she helpedmilitary family members become their own best advocates and getresults. For example, at least two Child Development Centers werefunded by Congress after Sydney helped local military families becomeengaged in the political process.

Sydney's work brought her many awards and recognitions. In 1992, theMilitary Chaplains Association of the United States of America selectedSydney as the recipient of their National Citizenship Award. TheUniversity of Central Florida presented her with their 1993 DefenseTransition Services Award for support to military families intransition. In 1998, Sydney was presented the "Champion for Children"award by the Military Impacted Schools Association. In October 1999,she received the Department of Defense Medal for Distinguished PublicService and the Military Coalition's Award of Merit. In that same yearNMFA established an award for exceptional service to uniformed servicefamilies, presented it to Sydney, and named it in her honor. TheDefense Commissary Agency presented Sydney with a Certificate ofAppreciation for "all she has done" as a "legendary champion for thecauses of military life." In 2002, she was inducted into the Fairborn(Ohio) City Schools' Hall of Honor.

These awards reflect a noble career of service. But Sydney Hickey'slegacy is greater than a list of awards. Her legacy is seen every dayin the dedication and accomplishments of the people she mentored overthe years: NMFA volunteers and employees, military family members,Congressional staffers, leaders of other associations, and countlessothers. It is in the increased awareness of military families thatMembers of Congress, their staffs, DoD civilians, contractors, andothers gained, thanks to their conversations with Sydney. It is in thememories so many of us share of her making a point, asking a question,getting a sentence just right in testimony, prompting someone in aposition of power to do the right thing for military families. Sydney'slegacy is in the example she set for us as a loving daughter, wife,mother, and grandmother; consummate professional; tireless volunteer;lover of Christmas and the U.S. Navy; and treasured friend. Our lives,and those of military families everywhere, are better because of SydneyHickey. 

2. New Guide on Adoption Services for Military Families Released:The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced thepublication of Wherever My Family Is: That's Home! Adoption Servicesfor Military Families. The guide highlights adoption practices that canhelp to minimize the obstacles military families face when attemptingto become foster or adoptive parents and offers advice to militaryfamilies and social work practitioners. Three military families, whoshared their stories in the guide, were recognized in a ceremonyattended by adoption professionals and professional staff members fromboth the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and theDepartment of Defense (DoD). HHS Assistant Secretary for Children andFamilies Wade F. Horn, Ph.D. recognized that military families havemany strengths, including flexibility and a strong sense of community,that make them good foster and adoptive parents. He expressedconfidence the new guide will help state agencies work effectively withmilitary personnel to ensure that all families who want to give a childa loving home can do so.

The guide, which is simple to read and user-friendly, is designednot only for social work practitioners, but also for military familiescontemplating adoption or foster parenting. It is sprinkled withstories of real military families who have adopted children.

Barbara Thompson, Director, DoD Office of Family Policy, expressedappreciation for the efforts HHS put into developing an adoption guidefor military parents. She observed how the guide supports theprofessionals dedicated to supporting military families as theynavigate the requirements to fulfill their dreams of adopting childrenwhile recognizing the strengths of military families. The guide, shesaid, will also help others understand how these strengths willovercome many of the hurdles faced by families who relocate and liveacross the world.

Prepared by a team including representatives of the HHS Children'sBureau, The Collaboration to AdoptUsKids, The Adoption Exchange, Inc.,McKenzie Consulting, Inc., the National Military Family Association,and the American Public Human Services Association, the guide wasunveiled at a ceremony commemorating National Adoption Month andhonoring the winners of the HHS Adoption Excellence Awards. KathleenMoakler, Deputy Director of Government Relations, was the NMFArepresentative on the project.

Copies of the guide may be obtained by calling 1-888-200-4005. It is also available on line at http://www.adoptuskids.org/images/resourceCenter/militaryGuide.pdf.More information on adoption for military families can be found on theMilitary OneSource website in the parenting section. NMFA offers a factsheet on the DoD Adoption Reimbursement Program at www.nmfa.org/factsheets.

3. TRICARE Invites Family Input on Services for Autistic Children:The TRICARE Management Activity (TMA) is beginning efforts to create aplan on how to provide services for military children with autism. Atthe urging of NMFA and military parents of children with autism,Congress added language in Section 717 of the FY 2007 National DefenseAuthorization Act (NDAA) to direct DoD to create a plan to address:

  • Education, training and supervision requirements for individuals providing services to military dependent children with autism;
  • Standardsto identify and measure the availability, distribution and training ofindividuals (with various levels of expertise) to provide suchservices; and
  • Procedures to make sure such children receive these services in addition to other publicly-provided services.

TRICARE seeks assistance from affected military families toparticipate in the plan's development. Some parents were nominated byNMFA and other military associations to serve on a panel to provideinput. Affected military families may also provide input by e-mailingcomments about their experience in working the various military,school, and local social service systems to obtain what their childrenneed. They may e-mail comments to ChildrenWithAutism@tma.org. TRICARE will accept comments until January 31, 2007.

Currently, there are a number of treatments available for childrenwith autism, including Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA). This therapycan be covered under the Enhanced Care Health Option (ECHO), a programthat serves active duty family members with certain disabilities.TRICARE shares the cost of ABA for an active duty family member only ifa certified provider administers services. While in the past, it hascovered tutoring by non-certified individuals when a certified provideris providing supervision, TRICARE ended this practice with the roll-outof ECHO in late 2005. Currently, TRICARE only shares the cost ofcertified provider hands-on ABA therapy under ECHO. While not payingfor services by the tutors, even if supervised by a certified provider,TRICARE will pay for the training by a certified provider of a familymember to provide additional services. In their fight to obtain achange in the TRICARE policy, both NMFA and the families of autisticchildren cited the seeming incongruity of a policy that rejected payingfor supervised tutors, but stated that it was acceptable to have familymembers trained to provide the therapy. NMFA stated in Congressionaltestimony that, while parents should certainly understand the therapyand reinforce what was done with the tutors, they should not be thereplacement for them. 

For more information on the ECHO program, go to: http://www.tricare.osd.mil/echo/. (Source: http://www.tricare.mil/pressroom/news.aspx?fid=246)

4. DoD Hosts Conference on Education for Military-Connected Communities:In a proactive stance toward ensuring a smooth transition during theupcoming mass relocations of military children due to Base Realignmentand Closure (BRAC) and global rebasing, the Department of Defensehosted its first conference on Education for Military-ConnectedCommunities. At the conference opening in Atlanta, Georgia, on November28, Dr. Leslye A. Arsht, Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (MilitaryCommunity and Family Policy), welcomed participants and praised theirwillingness to gather together to examine strategies, best practices,and resources for addressing the upcoming challenges that impactedcommunities and military families will face.

"Service members, community members, elected and appointedofficials, and parents all have a stake in ensuring that our childrenhave access to quality education. All children will benefit...qualityeducation is in the communities' best interest", stated Dr. Arsht.

Representing the National Military Family Association (NMFA),Patricia Barron, Deputy Director Government Relations, joined over 200participants personally invited to represent various military,community, school and parent leaders of the 18 installations mostheavily impacted by BRAC, global rebasing, and the reorganization ofthe military Services. DoD projects an estimated 66,000 students willbe affected by such moves.

The focus of the two day conference centered around a series ofbreakout sessions focused on sharing challenges to and best practicesof various issues pertaining to the upcoming moves. Issues included:

  • Needs of military children
  • Communication with military families
  • Information on arrival of families and numbers of personnel and families affected
  • Creating school, family, community partnerships for student success
  • Locating federal grants and assistance for construction facilities
  • Financing and planning for school expansion
  • Supply of quality teachers and counselors

Keynote speakers included Master Sergeant Alexander Radke (USMC),who spoke eloquently about his recent deployments and the effects onhis school aged child. MSgt Radke praised the public school his sonattended for "stepping up to the plate" and helping him get through adifficult year. "Military families don't want anything special...we justwant what every other family wants, a good educational experience forour kids."

NMFA applauds DoD for its focus and resolve in helping civiliancommunities and military installations meet the upcoming challenges.NMFA will continue to collaborate with DoD on various efforts toachieve a successful transition and speak out on behalf of families toensure their concerns and needs are addressed.

5. Sharing the Spirit of the Season with Service Members and their Families:Christmas Tree growers will donate more than 11,000 Christmas Trees toU.S. service members and their families this holiday season. The Treesfor Troops program, sponsored by the Christmas Spirit Foundation,kicked off on November 14, 2006 with the collection of tress inColumbus, Ohio, and Indianapolis, Indiana. These trees will be shippedoverseas to Afghanistan, Iraq, the Middle East, and to sailors in the5th Fleet in the Gulf. Additional Christmas trees will be delivered toU.S. troops and their families at military installations across theUnited States. Those trees will be collected and delivered betweenNovember 27 and December 11. Christmas Tree growers are donating mostof the trees, though consumers can also join the effort by donatingonline. Fed Ex is donating the shipping for all the trees, bothdomestic and overseas. For more information, visit http://christmasspiritfoundation.org/programs/trees4troops/home.htm.

6. "Let's Say Thanks" Sends Postcards for Service Members from America's Children:The mission of Let's Say Thanks is to provide a way for individualsacross the country to recognize U.S. troops stationed overseas. Bysubmitting a message through this site well-wishers can send a freepersonalized postcard greeting to deployed service members. Thepostcards, depicting patriotic scenes and hometown images, wereselected from a pool of entries from children across the country. Clickon your favorite design and either select the message that bestexpresses your sentiment or draft a personal note. The postcards arethen printed and mailed in care packages by military supportorganization Give2TheTroops®. For more information visit their websiteat http://www.letssaythanks.com/.

To discover other ways to support service members and their familiesthis holiday season visit the America Supports You website at http://www.americasupportsyou.com/.

7. Personal Products Needed for Wounded Service Members at Walter Reed:Officials at Walter Reed Army Medical Center are seeking donations forwounded troops who are forced to leave behind personal belongings whenmedically evacuated from war zones. Many of the troops "arrive withnothing," said officials from the hospital's Family Assistance Center.Because of the speed with which the most serious wounded are evacuatedfrom Iraq or Afghanistan, their belongings are often left behind anddon't catch up. The center is looking for everything from shoes, glovesand winter jackets to postage stamps, prepaid phone cards and razors.The Family Assistance Center requests that no cash or used items bedonated. Among some of the more specialized needs are weightliftinggloves (for use by wheelchair patients); trousers with snaps or zipsalong the legs; umbrellas; and prepaid gas or grocery cards. The centeralso helps patients file claims for personal belongings that were leftbehind during a medical evacuation. Loss or damage to items can bereimbursed through the system.Donations can be sent to:Walter Reed Army Medical CenterMedical Family Assistance CenterBldg. 2, 3rd Floor, Room 3E016900 Georgia Ave, N.W.Washington, D.C. 20307-5001More information on the donation programs and the medical center can be found at: http://wramc.army.mil/Soldiers/MedFac1/index2.htm(Source: Stars and Stripes Mideast edition, Friday, December 1, 2006)

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