Purdue centers' partnerships set to assist Defense Department programs for military families

April 14, 2015  

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Purdue University's Department of Human Development and Family Studies, home to the Military Family Research Institute, has partnered with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture and the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Military Community and Family Policy on four projects that seek to strengthen Department of Defense programming for military families.

Led by Human Development Family Studies faculty researchers in conjunction with the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI), these projects focus on a range of topics, from early childhood education and care, to evaluation of family programming and the creation of a new curriculum.

James Elicker, associate professor of human development and family studies, has engaged MFRI researchers to assist in his study of preschool access for 4-year-old children with military parents. The National Institute of Food and Agriculture project seeks to identify gaps in military preschool programs on installations overseas and recommend ways to address them. Elicker said his team will visit sites and conduct about 125 interviews with education leaders at overseas bases, including school administrators and staff working at overseas child development centers. Elicker's team is working with the Department of Defense Education Activity as well as Military Community and Family Policy on this project.

"We will gather information about current preschool program coverage and quality and then recommend ways to expand services in a cost-efficient manner," Elicker said. "This is a nice opportunity for me to broaden my perspective by working on a project that serves military children."

Douglas Powell, distinguished professor of human development and family studies, also is focusing on young children, leading a five-year project, with assistance from MFRI, HDFS faculty and staff, and partners in other departments and institutions, to develop a new curriculum for DoD child development centers and family child care homes. This new research-based curriculum will not only be used in the largest employer-sponsored child care system in the world, it will eventually be offered to civilian child care systems at no cost.

"We are exceedingly proud to be working with NIFA, HDFS, the DoD, and others to be partners in these projects," said Shelley MacDermid Wadsworth, director of MFRI. "These efforts help the DoD ensure that service members have the support they need to fulfill their responsibilities both to their military service and to their families at home, and the impact will be felt around the globe for years to come."

In addition to these child-centered projects, MFRI, along with faculty from the Purdue Homeland Security Institute, Purdue's Department of Consumer Science, Kansas State University's Institute for the Health and Security of Military Families and the University of North Carolina Greensboro, has entered into a cooperative agreement with NIFA to evaluate selected family support programs across the armed forces. Researchers are exploring data surrounding family support programs chosen by the individual services: two financial readiness trainings, and one emergency preparedness training and resilience training for couples experiencing repeated deployments. The goal is to equip the services with data to document and further improve the outcomes achieved by these programs.

These projects join a 2012 collaboration among MFRI, NIFA, the Department of Defense and the National Military Family Association that resulted in the publication of How to Help Military and Veteran Families. The original series of 11 issues offer valuable information to various audiences to help them assist and support members of the military, veterans and their families. Five new How to Help issues will be released later this year.

"These collaborations bring national attention to the capacities within our department and Purdue's College of Health and Human Sciences," said Doran French, HDFS department head. "MFRI's depth and breadth of experience with military families, combined with the individual expertise of our faculty members, make a perfect combination to help the DoD build its capacity to effectively and efficiently serve military families and provide them the best possible services." 

Contact: Beth Johnson, director of External Relations, Purdue University Military Family Research Institute, 703-927-7429, bethjohnson@purdue.edu 

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