Military Families Internship: Building Partnerships to Strengthen Military Families and Communities

A session at The Priester National Extension Health Conference

Tuesday 10th April, 2012

4:15pm to 5:15pm (EST)

Professor Sally A. Koblinsky
School of Public Health
University of Maryland

Jayne Fitzgerald
University of Maryland

Alexandra Bitonti
Military Family Intern and Family Science Senior
University of Maryland

President Obama has made support for military families a national priority. More than two million troops have deployed during Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)/Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF). Of those troops, 55% are married and 44% have children. While numerous military families exhibit resiliency, the recent longer and multiple deployments have been linked with military members’ mental health issues (including PTSD), physical injuries (including traumatic brain injuries), and problems of reintegrating into civilian life. Healthy People 2020 now addresses veterans who have experienced physical and mental trauma in their “mental health” goal and those with substance abuse disorders in the “substance abuse reduction” goal.

One challenge of enhancing resiliency among military families is the short supply of Extension, family science, and public health professionals trained to meet military family needs. Addressing this workforce shortage, academic and Extension faculty in University of Maryland’s Family Science Department created the Military Families Internship in 2011. This program established partnerships with State military bases, health centers, Extension offices, government agencies, and non-profits, who agree to host a college senior intern for one semester.

Students work in military youth programs and in family readiness, health/human service, and family life education programs focused on health, caregiving, youth development, financial management, and related issues.

Interns complete a MilitaryOneSource course on military culture and families (before placement) and bi-weekly seminars addressing military family research and programs while completing their 120-150 hour internship. Twenty students have internships at Walter Reed, Fort Meade, Andrews Air Force Base, State of Maryland, Operation Military Kids/4-H, Easter Seals, Operation Homefront, and other military-focused nonprofits in Spring 2012. A comprehensive evaluation of this partnership program is underway.

The Military Families Internship can be replicated by other colleges/universities and Extension programs interested in educating students, preparing the future workforce, and providing outreach to military families and communities.

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Sally Koblinsky

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Time 4:15pm5:15pm EST

Date Tue 10th April 2012

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