We Stand on Guard: A Research Initiative in Support of the Canadian Forces Family in Newfoundland and Labrador
In November of 2013 in a Special Report to the Minister of National Defence, Ombudsman Pierre Daigle presented the findings of his comprehensive review of the state of Canadian Forces families. Daigle noted the unique challenges associated with the military family lifestyle including: recurring geographic relocations; frequent, sometimes lengthy separations; elevated risk both in preparation for and during combat operations; and, the challenges of reintegration from military to civilian life in the context of physical and psychological injuries. In his report, Daigle presented 17 recommendations primarily aimed at fixes internal to the Department of National Defense (DND) and Canadian Forces (CF). Recommendation 8, however, urges the CF to pursue partnership opportunities with external agencies and organizations that will enhance its ability to support military families. Central to that task, according to Daigle, is that the CF develops a better understanding of the priorities and pressures of civilian providers, their organizations and agencies.
The culture of the military, and by extension its support units, necessarily operates in a climate of protocols and chain of command. Outside of this culture, non-military personnel, including researchers, often struggle to find ways to adapt their own organizational objectives to fully meet the needs of military families. This purpose of this meeting was to launch a proactive response to Daigle’s recommendation in support of CF families in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. More specifically, the intent was to engage civilian and Canadian Forces providers of health and social services and researchers from a range of disciplines in a discussion about key research themes. Attendees included personnel from the Military Family Resource Centre, Integrated Personnel Support Centre (CF), Veterans Affairs, along with community based practitioners, primary health care providers and academics from across disciplines. The following themes were outlined by discussants as potential areas for collaborative investigation:
Theme: Impact of mobility on children (e.g. impact of moving residences, schools, medical care)
Theme: Managing transitions (e.g. experience of (processes), identity implications, fostering good outcomes, role of family in, supports needed)
Theme: Access to care (e.g. acquiring a family doctor, waitlist do not fit with 3 year postings, mental health stigma)
Theme: Support and continuity of care (e.g. geographical issues and barriers to care and continuity of care)
Theme: Challenges for researchers (e.g. access to users, navigating different organizational structures and cultures)
Theme: Education for professional schools and general public (e.g. training to social workers and other providers about the needs of military families)
Theme: Cultural questions (Canadian military culture) (e.g. US media influences Canadian perceptions of military personnel issues
Theme: Practice complications (e.g. our perception of military context)
A longer term objective of the meeting was to engage attendees in a preliminary discussion about their ongoing participation in a loosely structured research alliance. Attendees agreed to continue to meet as a “research exchange group” – a format hosted and supported by the Newfoundland and Labrador Centre for Applied Health Research. A follow up meeting was held on October 13th where the following terms of reference were proposed:
Draft Terms of Reference for the Military Families’ Research Exchange Group:
Preamble - The Military Families’ Research Exchange Group exists as a space for knowledge sharing and to facilitate collaboration between researchers and service providers working with military personnel, Veterans, and their families in NL.
Strategic directions (high level values)
- To build capacity to expand empirical research to provide a stronger evidence base for programs and services
- To demonstrate both scientific rigor and meaningful community engagement in all aspects of the research process
Goals (key initiatives related to the strategic directions to be delivered over a longer term period e.g. one year)
- To progress and develop an agreed research agenda within this sector
- To act as a means of sharing research information relating to this sector
- To inform and update members of the group on research being carried out in other organizations, which may be relevant to their own work.
- To identify possible relevant research funding opportunities.
- To develop partnerships for possible future research.
- To mobilize knowledge (dissemination and user uptake)
The Military Families’ Research Exchange Group will continue to meet as needed. It was determined that a first area of consideration will be to examine the mechanisms of resilience in successful transitions from military to civilian life.