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Tinker’s Exceptional Family Member Program lifts up families with special needs

  • Published
  • By Kevan Goff-Parker, Staff Writer
  • 72nd Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Active duty Team Tinker military families with a child with special needs have the opportunity to benefit from the U.S. Department of Defense’s Exceptional Family Member Program.

Tinker Air Force Base’s EFMP coordinators Joshua Kever, 72nd Force Support Squadron, and Sharon Noones, 552nd Operations Support Squadron, serve as the duo helping active duty Airmen, Sailors and their families with special needs engage with the program.

They provide ongoing support for qualified families stationed at Tinker AFB and work to ensure that any permanent change of station is carefully considered by military personnel during the assignment process.

The EFMP also ensures that needed services and connections are made if a family is moving to another base.

Noones said special needs are determined as developmental, physical, emotional or mental disorders that require special services.

“These services are mandated through the Department of Defense,” Noones said. “The purpose of the program is to work with civilian agencies and the military to provide qualified families with comprehensive and coordinated support, to include community, housing, educational resources, as well as medical and personnel services.”

“The first thing we suggest they do is to connect with us, the 72nd Family Support Services, EFMP Medical and EFMP Assignments. Our primary focus is resource and referral, so active military members can focus on their mission and know that their family members are getting the support they need.”

Family members are screened, which includes a medical records review for all family members and developmental screening for all children age six or younger.

Once accepted, the enrollment is good for three years, unless there are any significant changes.  It is up to the service member and the family to keep their information current.

Kever said EFMP is especially helpful for families who are PCS-ing, because the program’s services includes a “warm hand-off to the gaining base” so the family knows what services, benefits and entitlements are available before they arrive.

“PCS-ing can be stressful, especially if you have a child who has just been diagnosed with a special need,” Kever said. “We try to make it so the family will arrive and not have those stressors.”

Some of the benefits EFMP families receive include:

• Participation in a coffee and tea group that meets from 2 to 3 p.m. on the third Thursday of each month at Balfour Beatty Community Center.

• Training, seminars and education workshops with subject matter experts.

• Tinker’s EFMP respite care of EFM children and siblings for up to 40 hours a month.

• Sib Shops (ages six to 13 have four activities annually designed specifically for the siblings of children with special needs).

• A resource library.

“Our respite care program applies to children with a moderate to severe disability where a qualified and trained caregiver will come and watch the child and his or her siblings so that parents can go to medical appointments, work out or go to the Tinker AFB Commissary or on a date night,” Kever said.

“We have a very active program, offer a lot of resources and have a lot of events going on. Earlier this year we held a Cowboy Campfire for families in the EFMP, we had a wine and paint event and French cooking classes.

“We research unique things about Oklahoma and try to hold events at places that are uniquely Oklahoman so that people who aren’t from here can experience it.”

For more information about EFMP, contact Kever at 739-2747.