When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Blue Star Families found itself in a critical position. It was one of the foremost organizations with ties to military family opinions and it was a trusted source for service members and their families.
Now, as the pandemic nears the two-year mark, Blue Star Families is keeping its educational campaign going on COVID vaccines, and continues to record the struggles service members face from tertiary COVID issues.
Kathy Roth-Douquet, CEO and co-founder of Blue Star Families, said in 2022 troops can expect more town halls with Dr. Anthony Fauci, chief medical advisor to the president, and other experts to answer questions about COVID.
“Right now, the omicron variant is concerning a lot of us and so we are going to be bringing Dr. Fauci back in the beginning of 2022, for another town hall. People in our community can once again ask him directly about some of the questions they have about this variant and about other issues,” Roth-Douquet told Federal News Network.
Blue Star Families will continue its Pain Points Survey into 2022, as well. The questionnaires gave quick insights over the last two years into some of the ad hoc issues COVID caused like moving kinks and financial hardships.
Coronavirus isn’t the only issue the organization is focusing on, however. Blue Star Families is preparing to release a large survey in February focused on race, equality and inclusion.
“After the George Floyd murder, we started not only looking at how people were reacting to some of the civil unrest and pro-equality and inclusion efforts that were going on around the country, but for the first time, we started looking at how people were responding based on race,” Roth-Douquet said.
Surveys showed differences in military families based on race for things like food security, access to resources and other areas.
Blue Star Families also does a large annual survey of the broader military community. This year, along with the traditional categories, the survey will hone in on a handful of newer topics.
“We’re going to be doing more work on military spouse employment, and also looking at what works, what is successful when people are finding meaningful work, and to trying to dig deeper so that we can cultivate the solutions, as opposed to just looking at the problems,” Roth-Douquet said. “We’re doing more work, on what elements make families resilient, so that we can start creating more protective programming. We’ve seen more and more over time about how whether people find a sense of belonging in their communities have something to do with resilience.”
Roth-Douquet said her organization is also working with families around issues surrounding the end of the war in Afghanistan.
“One of the first things Blue Star Families did is what we always do, we surveyed,” she said “We asked people for their experiences, we saw the strength of the feeling that people had a great deal of concern not just about ourselves, but about each other.”
Many service members were worried about helping Afghan allies that may have been left behind and the surveys showed strong support for helping Afghan refugees resettle.
Blue Star Families also opened itself further for mental health services. It signed onto a letter with multiple other military organizations offer support.
“We’ve really been urging for a surge in mental health resources to help our families and our service members and veterans too, who are experiencing challenges with the end of the war,” Roth-Douquet said.
Blue Star Families saw a handful of successes in the 2022 Defense Authorization Act. The organization supported and helped provide a basic needs allowance, expanded access to childcare and spouse employment.