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Problems with EFMP

This week’s Spouse Calls in print included excerpts from reader comments from the blog and email regarding their experiences with the Exceptional Family Member Program. The blog comments are available in their entirety by clicking here. Read on to see more of the emails I received:

Perhaps our situation is an exception (irony, anyone?), although I have to wonder how many families in the EFMP think as much about their own situation given the erratic way EFMP policies and whatnot are applied from base to base and service to service.

Our child was diagnosed with two behavioral disorders: Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder and Oppositional Defiant Disorder. She was diagnosed by professionals on and off base in three states. From the time she was 18-months old there was little agreement between professionals as to what was really wrong and how to treat it. This went on for over 10 years, and nothing was done to help us alleviate the problem of bickering professionals even after EFMP was started and we enrolled.

I've personally found EFMP to be of limited use, and I can only concede to “limited” because of the way they seemed to have helped others, but they were of no use whatsoever to my family, and on several occasions they hampered our efforts. Their referrals were not the most up-to-date. (We were given disconnected phone numbers, addresses to abandoned buildings, etc.) As far as I could tell their database was a few pages torn from the yellow pages rather than having any idea of who was any good at anything. Their idea of support was laughable. Seriously, several times I was met with condescending chuckles from EFMP staff members when I suggested my daughter could accomplish more than they said she could – or ever would. I gave up caring about anything they had to say after about a year of dealing with them.

When she was six, we were also told by a North Carolina professional that she wouldn't read above a 6th grade reading level. This was later confirmed by another professional in California – a referral by EFMP. And by “confirmed,” I mean he read her file, closed it and said, “Yup, she won't ever read well.”

She had two fantastic teachers over the years, both of them in (the U.S.) Most teachers would get a hold of her Individualized Education Program and seemed to want nothing but to dumb her down.

EFMP was of no help in this regard, either. Everyone from EFMP and teachers to professionals and the military police insisted she be defined by her diagnosis and treated accordingly. This is to say I was told not to “encourage her beyond realistic expectations of her condition.” I suppose this could have been to help with their numbers (no members, no funding) but at the time I chose to believe they were just stupid. There was a hint of threat behind their comments that someone in authority would be called in if I didn't comply with professional directives (“neglect” is the word they used for my regard.) However, they never once set foot on our doorstep.

When our daughter was 10 years old, my husband received accompanied orders to Okinawa. EFMP told us and Marine Corps headquarters that there were no facilities in Okinawa to handle her case. His orders were cancelled. He didn't get unaccompanied orders, either, though. We were told this was because he'd already been there unaccompanied six years prior. (Why did he get orders in the first place, then?)
EFMP also informed HQMC of our daughter’s classification after my husband received orders for Recruiting Duty. He'd been in Recruiting School for four weeks when he was called back.

When orders to Europe came 'round, part of our out-processing included a visit to the MPs who were happy to sign off on her going abroad – unofficially to “get her out of our hair.” I don't know why EFMP said nothing to HQMC at that time, but I suppose getting me out of their hair was a welcome reprieve.

We didn't enroll her in EFMP with the military in Europe. No one asked; we didn't tell. Yes, there were more issues with her in Europe, but the military didn't have who or what it took to help us deal with her, on or off base.

I relied solely on stateside communication with two of the social workers she had prior to our arrival in Europe. One began working with our family when our daughter was 18 months old; the other, when she was 13. Even as EFMP sent me off on one medical and psychological wild goose chase after another, these two women were the ones who had the right names, phone numbers, addresses, resources, referrals and face-to-face help.

Seriously the first social worker was on hands and knees with our daughter. The second helped me help her through her teen years. And I didn't get their names from EFMP. I hunted them down myself, and EFMP even declined to add their names to their list of providers when I suggested as much.

In my opinion, EFMP should get over themselves. They aren't all that and a sheet of gold stars. They could be. Lord knows they have the money, but they aren't.

For the record, our special needs child is about to graduate with a degree in Anthropology. She works at a public library and she loves to read. The "professionals" can *@#%&$#!
-- Marine Mom

I read the article “EMFP: Hurt or Help on Star and Stripes.” First of, I applaud (those who) work to help families with special needs. Majority of the service members or families I met were thankful with the program.

I myself have a special needs child, but unfortunately, I think, I am only one of the few that did not benefit from this program. I may be wrong, but ever since my daughter was enrolled to the program all it brought to us is separation and emotional hardship.

I have been stationed where they needed me without my family because of EMPF for five years. For the first three years because of limited medical facility and for last two years because I only have to fill a two-year tour and my family was not authorized to move with me. I am only sharing my thoughts base on my personal experience.

-- Dad in Iraq
 

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About the Author

Terri Barnes is a military wife and mother of three living in Illinois. She writes "Spouse Calls" weekly for Stars and Stripes and is the author of Spouse Calls: Messages From a Military Life. Leave comments on the blog or write to her at spousecalls@stripes.com.


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