Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Fort Lewis Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP)

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

Fort Lewis Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP)

Article excerpt

Located in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, Fort Lewis is the home of the highest per capita exceptional family member population in the Army. Ideally located on the Northwest coast of Washington State, Fort Lewis is home to the Strykers and First Brigade. Every Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) can be found on the installation. Combined with its close proximity to McChord Air Force Base, the installation is ideally suited to meet the needs of the military family.

With the large Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP), Fort Lewis has developed a unique partnership to meet the needs of families. Fort Lewis established a contract with Washington PAVE, a statewide disability organization, to provide the services of an EFMP Coordinator at Army Community Service (ACS). It soon became apparent that with the needs of the families, more support was needed. To address this need, the Fort Lewis ACS Director designated a full-time staff person as the EFMP Manager to work in concert with the EFMP Coordinator. This dynamic team has become the model of efficiency and support upon which families can depend.

Within the community surrounding Fort Lewis, families will find a variety of resources and services. The installation is surrounded by 13 school districts of varying sizes and scopes. Tacoma School District is the second largest school district in Washington State, while Fife School District is one of the smallest. Clover Park School District, which is the school district that provides services to families living on the installation, has a special education population of approximately 1,500 students from pre-school to high school. Almost 50 percent are military affiliated children. "The military has both a positive impact and is also challenging for the district," comments Mrs. Ann Almlie, Director of Special Education Services in the district. "There are a really high number of children with autism so we are working with the autism program at the University of Washington and developing innovative and exciting programs to meet the needs of our students."

Mrs. Almlie also emphasized the positive role the soldiers have. "It is a wonderful experience working with the soldiers." She also recognized the challenges with deploying soldiers, stating, "Many of our staff members are married to military personnel and the impact on moves in the middle of the year is greater. When their spouses are deployed, many of them choose to go back home so we have worked to ensure we have a good pool of quality staff available to address these situations."

Mrs. Almlie stated that the district has established strong programs to work with students with disabilities. "The only population of students that we contract out is students who are deaf." She pointed out that so much more is possible because of the relationship with the Fort Lewis EFMP and PAVE to help parents become involved within the community. She said that these connections have greatly enhanced the district's ability to support families. She indicated that these programs have helped families understand the differences they encounter in Washington State. "The one thing parents are not used to is that they may not live on post and be in Clover Park School District. EFMP has helped get information to us early. If we get the records soon enough, we can work with the families regarding appropriate placement in our district or another in the area, before they even get to Fort Lewis. Getting the records early is critical."

Adults with disabilities have found support and resources for many of their needs through the network of support available through TACID (Tacoma Area Coalition for Individuals with Disabilities), the Division of Developmental Disabilities (DDD), and the Division of Vocational Rehabilitation (DVR). …

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