First lady Jill Biden will highlight military caregiving families Wednesday morning at the White House, part of the Joining Forces initiative she started alongside then-first lady Michelle Obama in 2011.
Biden will join former Sen. Elizabeth Dole, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Veterans Affairs Secretary Denis McDonough for the event — the day before Veterans Day — to shine a light on the families who support those who served and sacrificed.
It comes as a new report from Hidden Helpers, a joint effort among Joining Forces, the Elizabeth Dole Foundation and the Wounded Warriors Project, has studied the impact of caregiving on service members’ families and children.
Approximately 2.3 million American children under 18 live with veterans with disabilities, the study’s analysis of data from the American Community Survey found, many of whom experience major disruption to their everyday lives and other negative outcomes. A copy of the study exclusively obtained by CNN outlined the ways in which children in military caregiving homes can take on additional responsibilities. Children in military caregiving homes, the report said, “can get lost in their family’s response to the needs of the care recipient.”
That leads to high reported levels of health problems, including stress, burnout and fatigue, feelings of isolation, difficulty expressing emotion and difficulty learning at school, and anxiety and depression.
The report made four key recommendations: encouraging the development of tailored programs and interventions; funding, promoting and creating support for the entire family; raising awareness through national campaigns and coalitions so that Americans can understand the needs of children in military caregiving homes more broadly; and partnering with federal and local agencies to reduce barriers to health care and other services supporting those families.
The Office of the First Lady said that both public and private-sector commitments to support Hidden Helpers will be announced at Wednesday’s event.
“Today’s White House event is about those ‘Hidden Helpers,’ bringing them out of the shadows, telling their stories, and pledging to do everything we can to support them. It’s exactly what Joining Forces is about — fulfilling our sacred obligation to those who serve and the families who serve alongside them,” Joining Forces Executive Director Rory Brosius said in a statement.
Brosius continued, “Hidden helpers are incredible, strong kids, but they aren’t superheroes. They deserve a community of adults who are willing to fight for them — and Joining Forces, along with the 60 partners of the Hidden Helper Coalition, will do just that.”
Dole, a former senator from North Carolina whose namesake foundation is aimed at supporting military caregivers, has been a vocal supporter of Biden’s Joining Forces initiative.
“At a time when so many of us have been left to wonder what can heal our country’s hardening divisions, Dr. Biden is poised to show us,” she wrote in an op-ed for Military.com earlier this year.
The event and subsequent report, Elizabeth Dole Foundation CEO Steve Schwab said, will “expose the challenges facing the youngest members of military families and for the first time provide substantive impact in their lives.”
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