If you are in the military and have a child with special needs, it is important to know the various federal and statewide resources available to you. Whether you have a young child or are seeking more information in your area, finding the proper support and advocacy will help in the well-being of your child and family.
Military One Source for Children with Disabilities
Military One Source is the most recognizable hub for military resources and directories. It’s a user-friendly website that offers a toll-free call service or online chat to refer you to non-medical services. That means education, consultation services, and programs that may help bolster support for your child. It’s a good route to start together with your child’s pediatrician.
As a parent or guardian, you have access to:
- A needs assessment performed by a certified specialist to evaluate your child’s needs.
- Local resources and services such as specialized doctors, medical equipment resources and benefits.
- Educational resources such as early intervention (age 3), special education in schools, and post-graduate services. Check out the links on special needs for useful downloadable toolkits for parents.
- Respite care resources through EFMP (see more below.)
How do I contact a specialty consultation?
You can call Military One Source at (800) 342-9647 or fill out the live chat contact information form to chat online. The caller will ask you to verify your branch of service and eligibility status. Military spouses and family members are free to call as well, provided they have the information handy.
Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP)
There are EFMPs for the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force. In general, the EFMP is there to ensure each special needs family has the mental, health, and educational care and support they need in their area.
The local military installation has its own EFMP program and coordinator assigned to each family (services vary based on location.) However, if the family lives outside the reasonable means of medical and educational care, the coordinator will help the family members find resources available in their area of residence.
If your child with special needs attends a CDC or school, the coordinator will work with you to receive appropriate accommodations based on the needs of your child. This can include medical assessments, mental health specialists, and resource specialists or aids at school.
It might also be worth noting that highly populated bases may have an online facebook group that is usually accessible with permission. It’s a way for you to stay up-to-date with changes or get in touch with special needs military families in your area.
How do I enroll in the EFMP program in my area?
It’s important to note that active-duty special needs families are required to enroll in their EFMP chapter, but every special needs military family may still apply. To enroll:
- Complete a DD Form 2792, “Family Member Medical Summary,” or DD Form 2792-1, “Special Education/ Early Intervention Summary.”
- Return the completed form(s) to your Exceptional Family Member Program family support office.
Respite Care is another helpful program provided through EFMP. This is a separate program from the YMCA initiative in that the program provides services at home. Those who enroll may receive up to 40 hours per month of childcare relief. A Respite provider that is trained to provide aid to children with special needs will come to your house so that you may run errands or step away from caretaking responsibilities.
As of October 1, 2019, Air Force Exceptional Family Member Program took over administration for the Respite Care Program for families with special needs.
How am I eligible?
- Active duty and reserve service members in the Navy or Air Force
- Enrollment at the EFMP office at your military installation
- EFM children eligible birth through 18 years (Navy Cat. 4 or 5 / Air Force Cat. Moderate – Severe)
Title V for Mothers and Young Children
The Maternal and Child Health Services Block Grant, or Title V, is a statewide grant used to fund developmental health programs for mothers and their children. These programs are specifically designed to reach children who severe physical, mental, or behavioral conditions. All 50 states have available Title V. You’ll want to speak to your EFMP coordinator about access to these resources, or you can call directly at (800) 311-2229.
Services available may include:
- Early assessment or screenings for your child
- Periodic tracking or monitoring of your child’s condition and consultation
- Therapeutic intervention with the family and your child which includes education, advocacy, resources and referrals
How am I eligible?
The EFMP coordinator will review three criteria:
- Children who are within the age range between birth through age 18 (21 years of age and older in some states.)
- Medical eligibility is assessed at the local Children With Special Health Care Needs office.
- Title V is based on income eligibility. Sliding scales and third party coverage are available in most states.
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Cristina Van Orden is a literary writer and active military spouse. She holds an MFA from Antioch University and taught K-12 English before working in editorial. Cristina currently resides on base with her husband and children.