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Faculty awarded grant to strengthen support for Air Force members, families

UNC School of Social Work faculty have been awarded a $302,500 grant to develop screening and service-planning tools that practitioners can use to help assess for and prevent family maltreatment among active-duty members of the U.S. Air Force.
The work is part of an ongoing collaborative project involving the Air Force Family Advocacy Program and co-principal investigators Dean Gary L. Bowen and research associate Todd Jensen. Bowen and Jensen have been working closely with the program for the last several years to strengthen support for and improve the well-being of service members and their families.
This latest piece of the project is supported by research work at Kansas State University and funded through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Assistant professors Paul Lanier and Cindy Fraga will serve as consultants on the project.
“This work represents the commitment of the UNC School of Social Work to work in full partnership with government and nonprofit organizations to close the gap between implementation science and practice and to make a difference in the lives of individuals, families and communities,” Bowen said.Over the years, research has shown that physical, emotional, and sexual abuse among active-duty service members and their families may be partially attributable to the unique stressors that military members, their partners or spouses, and children face due to deployments, frequent relocations, and work demands, said Jensen, who is leading the project. Research has also shown that a service member’s ability to successfully face stressors is influenced by a variety of factors, including whether an individual is physically and psychologically fit, has close family relationships, has informal community support as well as perceived support from unit leaders, he added.
Based on these factors, UNC researchers will work with Air Force partners to develop a screening tool that can help behavioral health care professionals identify an individual client’s strengths and risks, Jensen said. The goal of the screening tool is to produce a comprehensive profile that practitioners can use to navigate a conversation with the service member or family about potential problems or aspirations, he said.
“What we hope is that the practitioner would then be able to work closely with the individual or family to select appropriate services or programs to help them move toward greater levels of well-being,” Jensen said. “Ultimately, the goal is to ensure that these folks are healthy, and that they’re functioning well and mission ready.”