By Robert L. Gordon III, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Military Community and Family Policy)
Last week nearly 2,000 professionals who support family programs gathered in Chicago for the 2011 Department of Defense/U.S. Department of Agriculture – DoD/USDA – Family Resilience Conference.
The conference theme, “Forging the Partnership,” acknowledges DoD’s close relationship with USDA. They have a number of programs that benefit military families and we’ve had a robust working relationship with them for more than 25 years.
This is the first co-sponsored conference to integrate the knowledge, experience, and innovation within USDA’s Children Youth and Families At Risk program, National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Cooperative Extension Service, and the Department of Defense’s community and family support programs.
This biennial event is a premier professional development opportunity for our world-wide network of military practitioners and their key local partners.
The conference was officially launched when Dr. Catherine E. Woteki, USDA’s Undersecretary for Research, Education and Economics, and I signed a proclamation to formalize the partnership between the Defense and Agriculture departments to better families’ lives.
Sesame Workshop’s CEO Jeanette Betancourt provided the opening address for the conference, with some energetic help from Elmo. Attendees chose from more than 200 seminars that covered the full spectrum of family readiness and resilience programs and practices.
I was continually reminded of the passion for military families as I observed the discussions between our attendees and our speakers, expert panels and workshop leaders on promising tools and practices focused on military families.
Your opportunity to join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook continues, even though the conference has concluded. This is an amazing opportunity to engage a world-wide network of family program professionals with your questions, observations and suggestions. I welcome you to take advantage of this opportunity.
In today’s complex social environment surrounding military families, it’s impossible for DoD to provide families with all the support they need to cope with life challenges without active coordination with civilian communities. To address challenges, the DoD must continue to create partnerships with agencies such as USDA, Land-Grant Universities, and the Cooperative Extension Service in providing joint programs in support of military children, youth, and families.
Again, I hope you will join the conversations on Twitter and Facebook. We look forward to hearing from you! Thank you.