University of Texas at Austin to Help Military Families Who Have Children With Disabilities

A new partnership between the Texas Center for Disability Studies at The University of Texas at Austin and the Exceptional Family Member Program in Fort Hood, Texas, has created the Fort Hood Family Support 360 Project to help military families caring for children with disabilities.

Using a $1 million grant recently awarded by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services' Administration on Developmental Disabilities, the Fort Hood Family Support 360 Project will educate families in how to navigate and use military and civilian public support systems to get assistance and services for their children with disabilities.

"Supporting families has long been recognized as a model of best practices in the developmental disabilities field," says Dr. Penny Seay, executive director of the Texas Center for Disability Studies. "Our training sessions involve learning first-hand how families provide support for each other and the needs that arise. Training workshops also help to develop strong community services for children with disabilities."

Joan Boykin, branch manager of the U.S. Army's Exceptional Family Member Program at Fort Hood, believes "there is a definite need to help families find and use all the support available, both military and civilian. We look forward to this partnership to advance the mission of the program and to meet our families' needs."

The Fort Hood Family Support 360 Project will establish and use an advisory committee made up of more than 50 percent military family members. An Internet resource will be created as a single point of access for all information.

The project has enlisted the aid of many statewide agencies, including the Center on Disability and Development at Texas AandM University; the Texas Council for Developmental Disabilities; Advocacy, Incorporated; and the Children's Special Needs Network, an agency within the Central Texas Aging and Disability Resource Center in Belton.

The Fort Hood Family Support 360 Project is funded for five years. The U.S. Army and The University of Texas at Austin's Center for Disability Studies hope to continue the project and partnership indefinitely, offering support to military families and the disabilities studies community, as well as providing research and the experience to expand the project beyond Fort Hood.

The Texas Center for Disability Studies is an interdisciplinary team made up of professionals at the university level, individuals with disabilities, statewide service providers and advocacy organization specialists. The center is one of 67 University Centers for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities Research, Education, and Service facilities based in colleges or universities throughout the U.S. and its territories and is a member of the Association of University Centers on Disabilities. The center's mission is to serve as a catalyst in Texas so that people with disabilities may live the lives they choose in supportive communities, and cultural and linguistic diversity serve as a guiding principle in the center's work.