Air Force launches Family Support Team

Over a span of 16 months the recently formed Family Support Team of the RCAF visited 24 Air Force wings and bases in an effort to connect with families and provide better support.

“The biggest reason was to make sure we gave the families an opportunity to speak face-to-face with somebody. That face-to-face contact gave them an opportunity to express themselves and to share their experiences and to get around the uniform. Unfortunately, one of the biggest barriers when passing information to families is the uniform itself. We wanted to get around the uniform and go directly to families,” said LCol. Jean Mallais team leader of the FST.

One of the major results that these visits produced is the creation of the Family Sponsor Program. The Family Sponsor Program is designed to facilitate the transition of families from one base to another. During postings, families will be able to not only connect with senior leadership at their new home base but also reach out to other families. Plans are in motion to launch the Family Sponsor Program by April 1, 2016.

The key findings that resulted in the creation of the Family Sponsor Program are issues that impact military families across the board. Some of these include: access and affordability of childcare services, access to healthcare, military housing quality and spousal employment.

RCAF family support

“We all realize there are many challenges families face when you are uprooting your family every three or four years. It causes social issues, it causes family issues and it causes community issues,” stated Mallais.

The FST met with senior leadership, military members, local partners and held open forums with families to gather information.

The team was designed to carry out four roles: communication with military families to discuss their concerns, facilitation in connecting families to services like the Family Information Line, advocating on the behalf of families and gathering best practices across the bases.

The best practices the FST compiled from RCAF wings across the country were effective techniques bases were using to keep families informed. Some of the practices making the list were the creation of welcome packages, helping families connect to services in the area, appointing welfare officers, the use of efficient communication tools and having good relationships with the local MFRC and PSP.

Lt. Col. Mallais commends support services like the MFRC for the positive work they do for military families.

“There’s a tremendous amount of good work being done by MFRC who are the principal providers of support. They do great work but it’s a catch 22 you have to get families to come out and seek services and make sure families know where to go and not shy away from seeking help in a timely manner. It’s about being proactive rather than reactive,” said Mallais.

The FST was formed in Nov. of 2013 following the report issued by the Ombudsman entitled “On the Homefront” that analyzed support of military families. Though the report acknowledged military families are receiving more support than ever, it stated the military itself was doing a ineffective job connecting families to those services.

Above photo: Canadian singer-composer Loreena McKennitt, who is also the Honorary Colonel of the RCAF (centre) discusses the results of nation-wide consultations that were held in 2014-15 with military families.  Joining HCol McKennitt at this working group was Barry Rempel, CEO of the Winnipeg Airports Authority who is also the Honorary Colonel for 1 Canadian Air Division.  They sat down with the RCAF Family Support Team in spring 2015 to discuss ways of enhancing military life for RCAF members and their loved ones.  Learn more about how the RCAF has been working to ensure the voice of our military families is heard at: www.rcaf-arc.forces.gc.ca…

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