Florida Military Family Special Needs Network
In 2012, 7-Dippity partnered with the Florida Cooperative Extension Service to create the Florida Military Family Special Needs Network. The goal of the network is to enhance information, services, and supports for military families in the state of Florida who have a child with special health care needs.
HISTORY OF THE PROJECT
The idea for this project came out of a statewide needs assessment of military families, which 7-Dippity conducted from 2010-2011. Families of children with special needs often experience challenges that other families may not face. For military families, these challenges can be exacerbated. Deployment and reintegration, for example, can bring new challenges for military families with special needs children, especially when a primary caregiver is deployed. In addition, many military families in Florida, especially Guard and Reserve, do not live on or near a specialized duty station that can support special needs children. As a result, these families rely on community-based providers for assistance. This presents certain challenges, as many community-based providers lack the cultural competency to properly understand and assist with some of the unique challenges of military life.
To enhance supports for families statewide, 7-Dippity teamed up with the Florida Cooperative Extension Service to establish the network with support from a small grant from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The project was funded for a period of one year. Since then, 7-Dippity has voluntarily run the network without additional financial support.
THE NETWORK TODAY
Today, the Network is going strong and has expanded considerably since 2012, consisting of a host of military, state and civilian partners. The Network serves as a mechanism to share information, resources, best practices and referrals, as well as to enhance awareness and capacity in civilian communities in order to increase supports for military families with a special needs child. The network also provides a continuity of services to special needs military families who move from one area of the state to another or for extended family members serving as caregivers for special needs children while their loved ones are on deployment.
Each year, the Network hosts the Military Family Track at the Annual Family Cafe Conference. The Family Café stands out as the premier state-wide organization serving the special needs community in the state of Florida. The Family Café connects individuals with disabilities and their families with much-needed resources. To this extent, the Family Café created an Annual Conference to serve as a clearinghouse of information. On average, over 10,000 individuals attend this conference yearly.
The network remains 100% voluntary, with Scott Sevin, President of 7-Dippity, serving as the Chair.