Many individuals and families in the United States are connected to military institutions, in large part due to ongoing global conflicts. Although military-connected families can face unique demands (e.g., deployments, combat exposure, frequent relocations), they can also exhibit profound levels of resilience. Across military-service branches, systems of support are available to promote resilience among active-duty members and their families. The Family Advocacy Program (FAP), in particular, is charged with promoting family well-being and preventing maltreatment (e.g., violence, abuse, neglect) in the homes of active-duty members. FAP practitioners, who are stationed in bases and installations across the globe (including North Carolina), deliver programs, offer services, and engage in outreach.
Turning to the Unites States Air Force (USAF), FAP leaders have recently sought to fortify their overall approach to maltreatment prevention. Key practice-related questions were “what factors best predict whether maltreatment will occur in the homes of active-duty members?” and “what available and tested interventions align with this knowledge base?” Starting in 2014, a team of researchers from the School of Social Work partnered with USAF FAP leaders to begin answering these questions. What followed was a rigorous sequence of evidence-building, pulling together (a) the expertise of FAP leaders and practitioners, (b) a systematic review of published research, and (c) the analysis of a large, representative survey of active-duty Air Force members. The result was a comprehensive “logic model,” or visual depiction of key factors that can predict whether maltreatment will occur in the homes of active-duty members. The logic model now serves as an aid to FAP leaders in selecting optimal programs and services for families.
The most recent phase of this work led to the development of an assessment tool, the Personal and Family Strengths Inventory, that aligns with the logic model. The tool will be used by FAP practitioners to identify areas of risk and strength among active-duty members and their families. The tool will serve primarily as a catalyst for meaningful conversation between FAP practitioners and members, which can inform service planning aimed at preventing maltreatment and promoting well-being and mission readiness.
Dr. Todd Jensen, a Family Research and Engagement Specialist in the Jordan Institute for Families and Research Assistant Professor in the School of Social Work, and Dr. Gary Bowen, the former Dean and Kenan Distinguished Professor in the School of Social Work, were Co-Principal Investigators for this project. The project team also included two additional investigators from the School of Social Work: Dr. Paul Lanier and Dr. Cindy Fraga Rizo.