Air Force spouse creates Five and Thrive program to prioritize military families

The Air Force is undertaking a new program aimed at helping military families in the areas where they are hurting most.

The Five and Thrive initiative is headed by Sharene Brown, wife of Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. C.Q. Brown’, and attempts to tackle military families’ top five concerns: Childcare, education, health care, housing and spouse employment.

“My goal is to ensure these five specific areas are highlighted and any challenges under them are met with purpose and resolve, to include the unique challenges to our Exceptional Family Members Program families,” Brown said in a Tuesday release.

The Thrive team will publish a monthly Spouse Situation Report to communicate and share information with military spouses, as well as keep them abreast of policy changes and new resources.

“These actions and policies taking place at the highest levels are not always readily communicated to our spouses and families,” Brown said. “Sharing this information directly to our spouses is vital to their continued support. Military spouses are essential to the success and strength of our force and should be included in those quality-of-life discussions.”

Brown and her team will also meet with military families at bases in order to collect experiences and best practices.

The team published a guidebook, which pulls together resources for the five focus areas. It explains everything from rank structure to challenge coins for the newly inaugurated. It also shares safety tips, hints and a guide to confusing acronyms.

Kathy Roth-Douquet, co-founder and CEO of Blue Star Families, recently told Federal News Network that all of the areas Brown is focusing on are of the utmost importance to military families.

Blue Star Families conducts an annual survey, along with other smaller surveys, that gives insight into the thoughts and concerns of military families.

“We need to see more focus on childcare, in my estimation, in the work that we’ve done, I think childcare is the number one barrier for spouse employment,” Roth-Douquet said. “That then becomes one of the major barriers for military families to continue to serve and to be able to find financial security for their families. It’s also a really enormous issue for female service members.”

The most recent defense authorization bill has a handful of changes in all five of the areas. It expands the in-home childcare fee assistance pilot and authorizes seven new child development centers.

It expands paid parental leave to 12 weeks and creates a basic needs allowance for military families under the poverty line.

The bill also authorizes $50 million for local school districts with military connected children and $10 million for schools serving military children with special needs.

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