This MFLN-Military Caregiving concentration blog post was published on March 30, 2018. Written by: Christopher Plein, Ph.D. West Virginia University and MFLN Caregiving Team MemberLast month we focused on the wealth of information found in data and reports made publicly available by the Department of Defense. We discussed how the 2016 Demographics Report provides both general information as well as more specific details that might be of use to those working with military families. In this blog, we consider some of the information that DOD provides to Congress on an annual basis. These reports help to shed light on priorities and efforts that have been made in such areas as family readiness and support.What Can We Learn from the DoD’s Annual Report?One very helpful resource is the DOD’s Annual Report to the Congressional Committees on the Department of Defense Policy and Plans for Military Family Readiness. With such a long title, we’ll call it the Family Readiness report for short. A wide range of topics are covered, touching on many of the topics that we explore and share in the Military Families Learning Network. This includes such topics as child care, education, personal finance, and individual and family life. A review of recent reports reveals some following facts and figures:In 2016, there were about 1.1 million kids in active duty military families ranging from newborns all the way up to 22 years of age (page 3). About 75 percent of these kids were under the age of 12 (page 3). Contrary to popular perception, most families do not live on military installations. In 2014, almost 3 out of 4 families lived “outside the gate” (page 4).Just by taking these three pieces of information together, we gain a better understanding of some of the priorities in connecting families to resources and challenges in taking into account access to resources. Those interested and engaged in family support functions are able to gain a clearer picture of how families might be dispersed across communities and that access and availability to services may vary by location. This also helps us to understand the DOD’s priorities, outlined in the 2016 Family Readiness report, in forging links to community-based organizations and in providing more online reference and support services.The DOD recognizes the importance of providing support to families with special needs in terms of health care and/or educational accommodation. Each year, the DOD’s Office of Special Needs (OSN) issues its Annual Report to the Congressional Defense Committees on the Activities of the Office of Special Needs. We’ll call this the OSN Report for short and it provides important insights on trends and actions.Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) Trends:In these reports, you will learn about trends and developments with the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP). Each service branch operates an EFMP with the OSN providing support and promoting the development of standardized and best practices across the branches. The most recent OSN report notes that there are now about 120,000 EFMP family members across the services. Recent reports illustrate the attention that is being given to various EFMP functions. One area of emphasis is in family support. This includes non-clinical case management for families and the development of tools to better coordinate access to care and services. We also learn that families have voice in OSN efforts through the DOD Advisory Panel on Community Support for Families with Special Needs.Knowledge is Crucial in Helping Us Understand and PlanThese and other reports offered by DOD are helpful resources providing data and facts – as well as explanatory context. I always tell my students “go to the source.” The relative ease in accessing these documents online makes this an easy journey.