By Leslie Dunnett
Military spouse Leslie Dunnett speaks with Celine Thompson, the Director of Military Family Services (DMFS), about the creation and purpose of the Canadian Forces Family Covenant.
Making its debut three years ago, the Canadian Forces Family Covenant was created to recognize the contributions and importance of CF families.
“The CF leadership realizes that military families have made significant sacrifices while supporting their military family member,” says Thompson, “In 2008, a summit was held in Toronto to provide Military Family Services Program (MFSP) stakeholders with a platform to interact and acknowledge the ongoing successes of family services and to collectively work on strategies for improvement. Shortly following the summit, the CF Family Covenant was created.”
The summit addressed six key issues concerning military families: child care, medical care/access to general practitioners, employment, education (children and spouse), family mental health services/social services and deployment/family separation and reunion.
The Covenant is the cornerstone for enhancing the services offered to men and women in uniform and their families as the military prepares for future challenges. The Covenant states: “The strength and resilience of military families contributes to the operational readiness and effectiveness of the Canadian Forces.”
Thompson says the MFSP and the C/MFRC are the most visible and well-known examples of the CF’s support of military families.
As these families experience unique stresses associated with being a part of the military community, the MFSP is there to provide support and resources to military families through programs aimed at personal, family, and community development. These programs include second-language services, employment and educational assistance, and deployment/reunion support. Currently, there are 43 C/MFRCs across Canada and the United States, as well as in Europe that provide services to ensure that military families across the country and the world can enjoy access to these programs.
To commemorate this year’s 20th anniversary of the MFSP, the director made plans to increase the visibility of the Family Covenant. Now displayed in DND buildings, on wings, bases and in units, including Canadian/Military Family Resource Center (C/MFRC) locations across the country, the Covenant serves as a visual reminder of the CF’s commitment to families. You can also find the Covenant posted on-line on the FamilyForce.ca website.
Several plans have already been put into effect to improve the services offered. In March this year, DMFS began discussions with local C/MFRCs to announce expected changes to policies, additional funding for resources, and training opportunities for staff.
“In some cases, it may not be visible to families, but the new measures will ultimately contribute to the C/MFRCs’ ability to enhance services,” adds Thompson. “Additional enhancements to services and programs will continue to be announced in the coming months.”
In June DMFS launched the new website, www.FamilyForce.ca, and the new Family Information Line (1-800-866-4546); both designed specifically to link CF families to local C/MFRCs and better inform them of the programs and services at their disposal.
Thompson encourages families to become active in their local C/MFRs. Whether it‘s as a participant in activities or as a volunteer, there are numerous ways to become involved. Interested family members can also become a member of the Board of Directors at their local C/MFRC and the newly created National Military Family Council also welcomes new members.
“Families can and do turn to the C/MFRCs at different points in their lives,” says Thompson.
For more information, families can contact their local C/MFRCs, www.FamilyForce.ca or the Family Information Line at 1-800-866-4546.
*Above is a graphic of the Canadian Forces Family Covenant