Joining Forces 2.0: Serving America’s Military Families
In early January, First Lady Dr. Jill Biden announced the relaunch of the Joining Forces initiative, a program which aims to provide support for service members, veterans, and their families.
Originally the brainchild of then-First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden during the Obama administration in 2011, Joining Forces is “a nationwide initiative calling all Americans to rally around service members, veterans, and their families and support them through wellness, education, and employment opportunities.” In her move to revive the program, Dr. Biden named her senior advisor Rory Brosius to be the Executive Director of the program on January 14, 2021. Brosius is a Marine Corps spouse, family member to numerous servicemembers, and a staple in the military advocacy space.
Of the program’s importance, Dr. Biden says, “Joe and I have always believed that as a nation, we have many obligations. But we only have one truly sacred obligation — to properly prepare and equip our troops when we send them into harm’s way, and to care for them and their families both while deployed and when they return home, because your sacrifice deserves nothing less.” And with this renewed effort, FLOTUS emphasized her desire to focus on “fostering open communication and dialogue between the armed services community and the government.”
In a virtual discussion held in early February, the evolving community of the military was highlighted, as was the need of those in positions of power to utilize their ability to listen and act accordingly. “As we build on the progress we’ve made, we’ll be hosting listening sessions with families, government leaders, and experts. We’ll figure out where we need to improve, and create strategies and timelines to get there.” Dr. Biden further elaborated, saying the goal remains as it started: not to “tell military families what they need,” but to listen to their requests. “While I hope you will tell us when we are getting it right, more importantly, I hope you’ll tell us when we get it wrong,” Dr. Biden said. “I hope you’ll help us make this initiative reflect your lived experiences, so we can truly serve the military families who serve us all.”
According to the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), “there are more than 2 million children in US classrooms whose parents are active-duty military service members, National Guard, or reservist,” and these resilient “children experience multiple moves, extended separations from family members, and increased stress and anxiety as a result of military lifestyle challenges.”
An educator herself for over 35 years, Dr. Biden referenced the MCEC’s 2020 Military Kids Now Survey results “where students, parents and educators weighed in on the resources they need.” The survey provided a plethora of information which Dr. Biden pledges to utilize to inform decision-making moving forward, including:
- 77% of students moved 2 or more times during Kindergarten-5th grades, 42% of students moved 2 or more times during 6th-8th grades, and 25% of students moved 2 or more times during 9th-12th grades
- 97% of professionals believe military-connected children encounter additional stress or challenges compared to their civilian peers.
- The top academic concern of students: being unprepared for curriculum differences; the top social/emotional concern of students: feeling of acceptance/”fitting in”
- The top academic concern of parents: addressing variations in state academic standards; the top social/emotional concern of parents: their child making friends
- The top academic concern of professionals: moving mid-school year; the top social/emotional concern of professionals: dealing with parent deployment/reunion
Both Dr. Biden and Director Brosius recognize the importance of utilizing this information, especially now with the added challenges of COVID – “Military families still need support,” Brosius told the Associated Press.
The website for Joining Forces is still archived under the Obama White House website, and the Facebook and Twitter pages haven’t had activity since 2017, but it’s still early in the Biden Administration. Monitor these pages for updates on how you can help, get assistance, and to see what big moves the program has in store.
About the author
Samantha Cain has 10 years of experience as a freelance writer and content creator, specializing in a variety of topics such as higher education, personal finance, event planning, DIY projects, and military life. She holds a BA in English, is working towards an MS in Higher Education, and has been a military spouse for eight years. Having lived on a number of overseas military bases, she brings a unique perspective to her writing and strives to provide quality and beneficial information to the military community.