Army Spouses Survey Could Improve Quality of Life

Wednesday, March 21st 2001, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

ALEXANDRIA, Va. - A family-support survey will be mailed in early April to 20,000 Army spouses selected at random, researchers said.

The Survey of Army Families IV will give the spouses a chance to paint a day-to-day picture of Army family life from their perspective. Researchers said they want to capture that knowledge so senior leaders can use it to improve family support.

``We want spouses to tell us what it's like to walk a mile in their shoes out there wherever they are,'' said Dr. Richard Fafara, senior research analyst at the U.S. Army Community and Family Support Center. ``They know best what affects their lives and we value their comments.''

The 104 questions in this year's survey ask spouses to uncover family concerns and needs. From housing, relocation and childcare, to youth services and other issues that impact Army families, the goal of the survey is to paint a picture of emerging trends.

``These 20,000 spouses who respond are really catalysts for change,'' said Fafara. ``Responses to the first three surveys, conducted in 1987, 1991 and 1995, led to changes that benefit today's spouses and family members. Programs such as spouse employment, education, family readiness groups, childcare and youth services all look different today, thanks to input from spouses in those surveys.''

For example, Army Community Service Employment Readiness Programs assist spouses by matching skills and experiences with suitable jobs. Spouses who volunteer learn how to document that volunteer time as work experience, enabling them to build a history of leadership experience, skills and growth, Fafara said.

An outgrowth of the 1991 survey, conducted after Operation Desert Storm, resulted in the establishment of Army Family Team Building. Thousands of family members have attended AFTB classes and have a clearer understanding of Army culture and traditions as well as the many programs, services, and benefits available to them.

``The knowledge they've gained from AFTB helps them cope better with daily stresses of military life, especially those surrounding deployment,'' added Fafara.

``If there are past participants whose friends or neighbors receive a survey, I hope they encourage the recipients to take their selection seriously and spend the 30-45 minutes it takes to answer the questions,'' said Fafara.

Heads-up notices were mailed to selected participants in mid-March. The survey packets include postage-paid return envelopes, and officials encourage spouses to fill out and return the questionnaire as soon as possible.

(Editor's note: Harriet E. Rice is the public affairs officer for the Community and Family Support Center. CFSC is a Headquarters Department of the Army agency and has oversight for Army morale, welfare and recreation programs, such as Army Community Service, childcare, teen centers, domestic violence prevention, libraries, sports, fitness and performing arts.)

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