Purpose: With nearly 3 million US troops having deployed for Operations Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn (OEF/OIF/OND) since the conflicts began, an estimated 2 million children have been separated from a parent. This manuscript describes a collaborative project between a state's Veterans Healthcare System, a branch of the American Counseling Association, and a medical university on the OEF/OIF/OND deployment experience.
Methods: The project sought to educate school counselors about experiences of OEF/OIF/OND families and learn from their observations as home-front responders in public schools during a 2-day summer workshop. This manuscript describes the framework of the workshop, pre/post evaluation results, and implications for counselors, educators, and supervisors.
Findings: School counselors identified childcare and parenting, emotions and behaviors, finances, and barriers to counseling services as challenges for military children and families. Following the workshop, school counselors reported a greater knowledge concerning understanding aspects of outreach for schools and communities in working with veterans and their families. They also reported a better understanding of the impact of war on military families and knowledge of local and state resources for this population. Specifically, attendees felt they could better identify issues and needs of OEF/OIF/OND families with young children, recommend parenting skills to assist these families, and recognize their psychiatric or medical issues.
Conclusion: In addressing the mental health disparities of military children experiencing combat-related parental separation, it is important to identify protective environments that could provide prevention interventions for this population. Collaboration between the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and Department of Education could help support military families and a society facing continued conflicts abroad.