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Family Advocacy helps Team Whiteman through education, support

Members of the 509th Medical Group Family Advocacy Program stand for a photo on August 28, 2020 in front of the 509th MDG Clinic at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The Family Advocacy Program provides support for families through education along with prevention and response to domestic violence. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

Members of the 509th Medical Group Family Advocacy Program stand for a photo on August 28, 2020 in front of the 509th MDG Clinic at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The Family Advocacy Program provides support for families through education along with prevention and response to domestic violence. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Sean FitzPatrick, a Family Advocacy Officer, left, Bethany Burkhart, a Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate, center, and Cory Watson, a family advocacy intervention specialist, right ,with the 509th Medical Group Family Advocacy Program stand for a photo on August 28, 2020 in front of the 509th MDG Clinic at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The overall military Family Advocacy Program has the primary goals of preventing abuse, encouraging early identification and prompt reporting, promoting victim safety and empowerment, and providing appropriate treatment for affected service members and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

U.S. Air Force Maj. Sean FitzPatrick, a Family Advocacy Officer, left, Bethany Burkhart, a Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate, center, and Cory Watson, a family advocacy intervention specialist, right ,with the 509th Medical Group Family Advocacy Program stand for a photo on August 28, 2020 in front of the 509th MDG Clinic at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The overall military Family Advocacy Program has the primary goals of preventing abuse, encouraging early identification and prompt reporting, promoting victim safety and empowerment, and providing appropriate treatment for affected service members and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

Beth Stagnolia, left, and Melissa Tucker, right, the 509th Medical Group Family Advocacy Program nurses stand for a photo on August 28, 2020 in front of the 509th MDG Clinic at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. Stagnolia and Tucker work as part of the New Parent Support Program by performing house visits and providing resources to expecting parents and parents with children under the age of three. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

Beth Stagnolia, left, and Melissa Tucker, right, the 509th Medical Group Family Advocacy Program nurses stand for a photo on August 28, 2020 in front of the 509th MDG Clinic at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. Stagnolia and Tucker work as part of the New Parent Support Program by performing house visits and providing resources to expecting parents and parents with children under the age of three. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Parker J. McCauley)

WHITEMAN AIR FORCE BASE, Mo. -- The 509th Medical Group Family Advocacy Program aims to support military families through education along with the response to and prevention of maltreatment.

Family Advocacy offers a wide variety of services to Team Whiteman with classes for single Airmen, couples and families to find, build and maintain their relationships and be better parents along with support and intervention to prevent and respond to domestic violence.

“Family Advocacy’s primary job is to boost the 509th Bomb Wing’s readiness mission by enhancing, promoting and leveraging family and community health through prevention and intervention services,” said U.S. Air Force Maj. Sean FitzPatrick, a 509th Medical Group Family Advocacy Program officer. “It is our job to provide families the necessary tools and resources to excel and grow while in a military environment.”

The Family Advocacy program completes this mission through their prevention services along with the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate program.

“The prevention services and DAVA both exist to provide a wide spectrum of supportive services to our Air Force families such as marital and parenting enhancement strategies, supporting families dealing with an acute crisis, and providing direct intervention services to families experiencing maltreatment issues,” said FitzPatrick. “We work closely with community agencies to ensure our Air Force families are aware and receiving all the available resources.”

In line with the goal to prevent domestic violence, Family Advocacy Program offers strength based therapy for couples that fear things could escalate.

“While the Family Advocacy Program works with military families on matters of domestic violence and child abuse and neglect, it is our hope to get in front of the issue any time we can, which would describe the prevention side of Family Advocacy,” said Cory Watson, a 509th Medical Group family advocacy intervention specialist. “Family Advocacy provides free base-wide classes for anyone with base access. Classes include Love & Logic Parenting, Prevention and Relationships Enhancement Program Couples Classes, Anger and Stress Management, and Premarital, Interpersonal, Choices and Knowledge or PICK A Partner Class (for singles). These classes range from four to six sessions, and are usually once a week for two hour sessions.”

The Family Advocacy program also offers the New Parent Support program which is free to active duty families expecting a baby or who have a child under the age of three. Family Advocacy has two registered nurses who work within the NPSP and do home visits to help and educate new parents. The NPSP offers support for a variety of things such as prenatal education, child-proofing tips, newborn care, potty training, sibling rivalry and more.

The response to domestic violence and the support for victims is a large part of Family Advocacy as a protection measure for families.

“The Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate’s primary role is the safety of victims of domestic abuse and intimate partner sexual assault,” said Bethany Burkhart, a 509th Medical Group Family Advocacy Program Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate. “One of the first things I do is advise individuals of their rights regarding Restricted versus Unrestricted Reporting options. I can be reached 24/7 on my DAVA hotline at 660-324-4752.”

Restricted reporting allows victims to make a confidential report and receive medical treatment and Family Advocacy services without notifying commanders or law enforcement agencies. Unrestricted reporting gives victims the option to pursue an investigation.

In addition to being on call she also provides a number of services to help members of Team Whiteman.

“The services I provide are safety planning, risk assessments, assistance with obtaining immediate needs and assisting in obtaining pilitary and civilian protection orders,” said Burkhart. “I can accompany individuals to appointments and court proceedings. Additionally, I provide on-going support and referrals and ensure that individuals are aware of all the resources available to them in the military and civilian community. Another service I provide is support and referral services to the non-offending caregiver in a child maltreatment or youth sexual assault incident.”

In addition to classes Watson provides other support for families and units by spreading awareness of their services and training leaders annually on topics such as child abuse and neglect.

“As the Family Advocacy Intervention Specialist, it is my role to provide overall awareness to the base populace of Family Advocacy services,” said Watson. “Additionally, I provide therapeutic services and case management for families for which we work.”

According to FitzPatrick, The Family Advocacy program is always trying to improve their support to the Whiteman community..

“Through passion, dedication and continual focus on our goals. We constantly are looking to build and improve relationships with our base populace as well with the off-base community,” said FitzPatrick. “We strive to be on the cutting edge and provide the most effective evidence based clinical services to our families.”

For more information go to https://www.whiteman.af.mil/familyadvocacy/ or call the Family Advocacy Program at 660-687-4341.