New Center for Military Families

November 11, 2011

On Friday, November 11, 2011, Wheelock College celebrated our veterans with the opening of the Wheelock Center of Excellence for Military Children and Families.

With the recent rise in multiple and prolonged deployments of guard and reservists, military families face an increasing amount of stress. In response to the many unique stressors, the center was developed to support children and families of Massachusetts servicemen and servicewomen by connecting them to support services they may not be aware of. The new center, in Wheelock's School of Arts and Sciences, is led by Dr. Shirley Malone-Fenner.

According to Dr. Malone-Fenner, Wheelock College's Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences, "There is a real problem when military families do not know about the many support services available to them or how they can utilize those services. We are trying to help make as many people as possible aware of existing resources," she said.

Wheelock College offers direct support to veterans and their families. The college's Counseling Center currently has programs for military connected students and plans to open up these counseling programs to children outside of the Wheelock student body. Wheelock is also a part of the Yellow Ribbon Transition Program, offering workshops on reintegrating military members into communities and offering veterans classes at Wheelock to help in this process.

In addition to increasing the visibility of support programs, Wheelock will educate care providers about the unique issues faced by military families. The college plans to expand care provider training programs created in partnership with the Military Child Education Coalition and the Massachusetts National Guard. Wheelock will also develop a course in the spring preparing care providers to address issues faced by military families.

The Career Planning Office at Wheelock is working with the Center to post job opportunities in military related fields for aspiring teachers, social workers, child life specialists and psychology majors. Dr. Malone-Fenner is also a panelist on the "Operation Educate the Educators" panel, created by Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, where she is assisting in the development of teaching materials to help educators around the country better support military-connected students.

According to Wheelock President Jackie Jenkins-Scott, "Here at Wheelock we want to extend our mission to improve the lives of children and families to include military-connected individuals. As more service men and women return home, every day more families will face an increasing amount of adjustment challenges. Our goal is to provide social, emotional, and intellectual support amid great change," she continued.

Wheelock students are also involved in efforts to help military families. The Center of Excellence for Military Children and Families launched a Military Engagement Program for Wheelock Jumpstart students at five centers in Dorchester and Roxbury this fall. The program will train 70 Wheelock Jumpstart students to address military family issues in preschool settings.

Dr. Malone-Fenner, daughter of a veteran and a veteran herself is no stranger to the issues that affect military families. "As a member of a military family and as a psychologist, I know first-hand that we need to make more people aware of the services available to them," she said. "We are trying to help care providers understand what the needs of military connected children are and we are trying to make our students at Wheelock aware of the issues that affect military families."

Wheelock is currently seeking funders to support the Center of Excellence for Military Children and Families. To join Wheelock College in these important efforts please contact Dr. Shirley Malone-Fenner at 617-879-2248 or email smalone-fenner@wheelock.edu. For more information about the center visit www.wheelock.edu/military.

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