Landmark Partnership to Support Military Families

May 24, 2013

Living in the New Normal Conference at Wheelock CollegeWheelock College sponsored a first-of-its-kind partnership of national, state, and local agencies, organizations, and institutions has come together to support the more than 25,000 military connected children in the Bay State. With funding from the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care and the Office of Secretary of Defense, the coalition promoted a series of four regional professional development training events May 20-23 at Wheelock.

Wheelock, as an approved state vendor, collaborated with the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC), the Massachusetts National Guard, the Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care (EEC) in partnership with the Head Start State Collaboration Office (HSSCO) to offer the MCEC's Living in the New Normal: Helping Children Thrive in Good and Challenging Times Practicum (LINN-P) for early education and care practitioners who represent children from birth to age 8 within the five EEC's state regions.

The College has a history of providing support for military connected families. From 1994- 2007, the College provided educational programs in South Carolina at the Marine Corps Air Station and Parris Island. Wheelock values the power of partnerships and collaborations to effect positive change for children and families.

Over the last four years, Wheelock has worked closely with the Military Child Education Coalition (MCEC) to provide logistic support for a number of LINN Institutes and Guard and Reserve Institutes in Massachusetts. Wheelock is also part of the Joining Forces-Educate the Educator team to train educators across the country about the needs of military connected children. Dr. Shirley Malone-Fenner, Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences at Wheelock College and head of Wheelock's Center of Excellence for Military Children and Families, is the College's representative on the team.

The free trainings, titled "Living in the New Normal-Practicum" and offered by the Military Child Education Coalition (501c3), provided early childhood educators and care providers with the latest research and experience-based knowledge, skills, and tools to assist military connected children in developing strength and resiliency.

"This effort will help create the base of informed sensitivity and support that the children of our servicemen and women need and deserve at a critical time in their young lives," said Department of Early Education and Care Acting Commissioner Tom Weber. "With more than 10,000 military-connected children from birth to age five in Massachusetts, this is critical work that will build a stronger citizenry and help ensure a prosperous future for the entire Commonwealth."

Wheelock College's Center of Excellence for Military Children and Families was established in collaboration with the Massachusetts National Guard and the Military Child Education Coalition® to draw attention to the many services available to aid military children and families. According to Dr. Malone-Fenner, "This partnership is a perfect fit for our mission and the commitment we have made through our Center of Excellence to make educators and the community at-large aware of the challenges facing military connected children."

Massachusetts National Guard Family and Youth Director Maureen Serrecchia said, "These trainings support the ongoing commitment to provide assistance and support to the families and children of those who serve our communities, Commonwealth, and country."

The Military Child Education Coalition is a private, nonprofit organization formed in 1998. It provides training, programs, and resources to support military-connected children facing issues related to deployments, reintegration, mobility, grief, loss, and trauma.

The interactive trainings were conducted in Springfield on May 20, at Wheelock College in Brookline on May 21, at Bridgewater State University on May 22, and in Shrewsbury on May 23.

Pictured (l to r) Jennifer Amaya-Thomas of the MA Department of Early Education and Care, Thomas Weber, acting commissioner of the MA Department of Early Education and Care, Dr. Shirley Malone-Fenner, Wheelock College Dean of the School of Arts and Science, Major Christopher Hoffman of the Massachusetts National Guard, and Maureen Sereechia, state family program director of the Military Family Support Center.

See photos from the session at Wheelock.

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