Like thousands of military spouses, Army wife Amy Zink has been frustrated in trying to find the resources to help her family.
When her daughter was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes while they were living in Germany, she became her daughter's advocate when facing the challenges of obtaining necessary services. Then in moves among Germany, Tennessee and Texas, the children attended seven schools, with three sets of standards among them.
Like many military spouses, Zink was a fierce and persistent advocate for her children. She says many resources are, in fact, available to military families, but there's often a disconnect because families don't always know about them.
"Sometimes when military families are in a situation of high stress because of separation during deployment, or just moved, you may not know where to look," says Zink, whose husband is now retired. She spoke as part of a recent Stimson Center panel on military children's education issues.
It's an old problem for the Defense Department and the services: getting the word out to families about these resources.
In Zink's case, at least one of those resources saved money. When her daughter had trouble with math, Zink found she couldn't help her. Her deployed husband tried to help through videoconferencing. "You do not want to leave the conversation with your soldier when your daughter is crying because she can't do her math," Zink said. "I found Tutor.com. It was fabulous and she loved it."
And it was free; DoD provided the tutoring service through Tutor.com at no charge, she said.
She suggested one way to fill the information gap is for military officials to filter information about military family resources through local schools.
Knowledge is indeed power. When the family moved to Tennessee and school officials balked at testing her daughter for placement in an educational program, Zink said she "invoked" the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children.
School officials didn't know about the compact, but she spurred them to do some research. Officials found that Tennessee had adopted the compact and they confirmed her daughter would be eligible for the placement test.
Even in the Internet Age, outreach is a perennial problem. But, like Amy Zink, we can all help by being advocates for our own families, and pointing other families toward someone who can help.
If you don't know where to start, a good all-purpose launch pad is Military OneSource, online at militaryonesource.mil or by phone at 800-342-9647.