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The Family Advocacy Program

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The Family Advocacy Program, or FAP, is the Defense Department’s program designated to address child abuse and neglect, domestic abuse, and problematic sexual behavior in children and youth. FAP is delivered through the military services, which work in coordination with key military components and civilian agencies to:

  • Prevent abuse
  • Encourage early identification and prompt reporting
  • Promote victim safety and empowerment
  • Provide appropriate support to service members, their partners and family members

Find your local Family Advocacy Program

If you would like to learn more about FAP’s services – or need to make a report of child abuse and neglect, domestic abuse, or problematic sexual behavior – use the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate Locator to find help near you.

FAP directly provides or coordinates a range of services for individuals and families impacted by abuse and neglect. FAP services are designed to:

  • Identify and build on individual and family strengths
  • Increase protective factors that have been found to reduce risk
  • Promote the safety and well-being of service members, their partners and family members

FAP services are available for service members, their partners and family members. FAP staff are professionally trained in abuse prevention and response and offer a range of services and programs. These services include support for new and expecting parents, workshops to build and improve skills for healthy relationships, counseling and/or treatment, as well as help in planning for safety in a crisis. They also respond to reports of child abuse and neglect, domestic abuse, and problematic sexual behavior in children and youth. Whether you are seeking help because of domestic abuse, or have concerns for a child’s safety, FAP can assist and connect you with helpful resources.

Below, we’ve answered some frequently asked questions about how FAP supports service members, their partners and family members through prevention, reporting and treatment – and how you can play a role in supporting members of the military community impacted by abuse.

FAP provides clinical and non-clinical services to prevent and respond to child abuse and neglect, domestic abuse, and problematic sexual behavior in children and youth. FAP’s top priority is safety for individuals and families in the military community who may be at risk for, or experiencing, abuse. FAP also works with service members, their partners and family members to encourage healthy, abuse-free relationships and nurturing parenting. Some of these services include:

  • The New Parent Support Program. This is a targeted prevention program for expectant parents or those with children ages 3 and younger and offers parenting education and support primarily through home visitation services. Home visitors provide a variety of services tailored to each family and parent’s needs, including breastfeeding support, lessons on effective and safe parenting of infants and toddlers and tips for new fathers. In some locations, they may also offer parenting-related classes.
  • Victim advocacy and support. Whether you are in a crisis and in need of immediate help or are seeking information about counseling for emotional safety and support, domestic abuse victim advocates and clinicians can work with you to develop a plan to address unhealthy patterns of behavior or abuse in a relationship.
  • Counseling and/or treatment. Counseling services can be preventative or part of an intervention, if needed. FAP offers individual, couple, family and group counseling and clinical case management services. Clinical case management refers to the process of ongoing coordination of appropriate services. This includes comprehensive assessment and counseling as well as safety planning for those at risk for abuse and neglect or those currently experiencing it.

Reporting

There are two types of reports a person can make for domestic/relationship abuse. The response and services available depend on the type of report.

Restricted or confidential reporting: This allows victims to receive victim advocacy, safety planning and clinical counseling, and sometimes medical care, without notifying the abuser, command or law enforcement. This option has some limitations. It is:

  • Only available to adult victims who are eligible to receive medical care from the Defense Department
  • Not available if there is a grievous injury or the possibility of imminent harm to the victim or other person
  • Not available for situations involving child abuse or neglect

Unrestricted reporting: This allows victims to receive victim advocacy, safety planning, clinical counseling and medical care. This option:

  • Notifies a service member’s command of the incident
  • Notifies the appropriate law enforcement organizations for potential investigation
  • Allows for the abuser to receive incident assessment and clinical counseling

Services available to individuals involved in domestic/relationship abuse:

  • Advocacy, crisis intervention and safety planning. This service is available only to victims. Either a domestic abuse victim advocate or FAP clinician can provide these services. If the report identifies you as a victim, a victim advocate will contact you. They will offer crisis intervention, information and support as needed. You may also contact them by calling your nearest FAP office or using the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate Locator on Military OneSource. Note: All services are voluntary.
  • Clinical assessment and interventions. FAP clinicians offer individual meetings with all involved adults to determine safety needs, assess the severity of the situation and identify clinical or other support services needed. FAP clinicians will contact all involved adults to schedule an initial meeting.
  • Referrals to non-FAP service providers. FAP clinicians may offer you referrals to services outside FAP. These could be on or off the installation. Examples include medical/behavioral health, financial resources, parent education classes, specialty services and crisis intervention. Intimate partners who are not eligible to receive services from the medical treatment facility may receive initial victim advocate services and will be referred for additional support services in the local community off the installation.

Reporting

For all incidents of suspected child abuse or neglect in the United States, the person receiving the initial report must notify the local Child Welfare Services agency, which has the primary responsibility to investigate reports. FAP services do not replace this function. Most FAP offices have agreements in place allowing formal coordination between FAP and Child Welfare Service providers.

Overseas, this process is determined by the Status of Forces Agreement with the country in which the child resides.

Services available to children and families involved in child abuse or neglect:

  • Parent education and skills training. FAP offers a range of parent education and skills training on topics such as child development, anger management and healthy communication.
  • Advocacy support for parents. If a child has experienced abuse, FAP provides advocacy, information and support for parents/caretakers who were not involved in the abuse.
  • Clinical assessment and care coordination. For all reports of child abuse and neglect, FAP clinicians will offer to meet with all involved adults and children, as appropriate. They will coordinate with agencies both on and off installations to ensure parents and children are able to access all recommended services.

FAP also responds to reports of children and youth exhibiting and impacted from problematic sexual behavior. FAP addresses these reports and provides support for the parents of both children impacted by, and children exhibiting harmful sexual behavior.

The Defense Department defines domestic abuse as a pattern of behavior resulting in:

  • Emotional or psychological abuse, which may include excessive jealousy and personal insults or verbal harassment, as well as threatening language suggesting the use or future use of physical abuse
  • Economic control, which includes one spouse/partner controlling how the other spends funds, intentionally accumulating credit card debt in the other’s name or refusing to share the decision making on household finances
  • Interference with personal liberty, which may include tracking the victim through electronic devices, apps or social media, or forbidding the victim to leave the home
  • Spousal neglect, in which one spouse or partner fails to provide the necessary care or assistance to the other spouse or partner in the event they are incapable of self-care physically, emotionally or culturally

Domestic abuse may also involve physical abuse, including sexual abuse. The use, attempted use, or threatened use of force is considered domestic abuse and is an offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, state and federal laws.

Department policy defines an intimate partner as:

  • A current or former spouse
  • A person with whom the alleged abuser shares a child in common
  • A current or former intimate partner with whom the alleged abuser shares or had shared a common domicile
  • A person who is or has been in a social relationship of a romantic nature

There does not have to be any physical violence for FAP to provide help for domestic abuse. If FAP receives a report of domestic abuse involving a service member or their partner, FAP will contact the victim to ensure their safety, assess risk for immediate harm and work collaboratively with the victim to determine next steps tailored to their situation.

There are different options for reporting abuse. Depending on who makes the report of domestic abuse and the reporting option selected, different steps may be taken to notify command, interview the alleged abuser and contact military law enforcement.

The department and each of the military services define child abuse and neglect as the physical, sexual or emotional abuse or neglect of a child that harms or threatens their welfare. Generally, victims of child abuse are under the age of 18. Under department policy, harm to the child must be committed by a parent or guardian or trusted person acting in a caregiving role. The child must be a dependent of a service member, or a civilian child who has been harmed by a service member or a civilian working in or associated with a Defense Department school, child development center, family child care home or youth activity.

In some cases of child abuse or neglect, the incident may be an example of poor judgment or a one-time act not characteristic of the individual’s relationship with the child. In other cases, an adult responsible for the child’s care will repeatedly harm or threaten the child using inappropriate discipline, physical or sexual violence, withhold food or basic care, or not provide adequate supervision.

Upon receiving a report of child abuse or neglect, FAP will notify the non-abusing parents or caregivers and work with the family to ensure the child’s safety. FAP will continue to provide emotional support and other services, as requested, throughout the duration of the case.

It will also work with the local Child Protective Services, which is required by law to investigate the reported abuse. FAP will also notify the command of the victim’s parents.

Note: If you are seeking information on problematic sexual behavior in children and youth, you can learn more about Healthy Sexual Behaviors in Children via Military OneSource.

Problematic sexual behavior in children and youth is defined as behavior, initiated by children and youth under the age of 18, that involves using sexual or private body parts in a manner that is developmentally inappropriate or potentially harmful to the individual or the individuals impacted by the behavior.

FAP will become involved upon receiving a report of concerning sexual behavior by a child or adolescent, whether the incident occurs at a Department of Defense Education Activity school, Child and Youth Program, Child Development Center or elsewhere. It will work with you and your child to determine the appropriate response and support you through next steps.

FAP works with individuals and families to end the use of violence and other harmful behaviors in relationships, not to end military careers. Its first priority is to employ trauma-informed and research-supported interventions to restore safety in relationships, when possible, and to empower those who have experienced harm to access and use the resources they need to heal.

Just as domestic abuse and child abuse and neglect are crimes in the civilian justice system, incidents of abuse that rise to the level of serious harm in the military are subject to requirements under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and/or command action.

Financial resources are available if you are a military spouse or active-duty spouse who has left an abusive relationship, and your service-member spouse has been separated from the service due to domestic or child abuse. In those situations, you may be eligible for transitional compensation as a way to help you get back on your feet.

Domestic abuse victim advocates are trained professionals who provide non-clinical services and support to service members and their partners or family members experiencing domestic abuse, including:

  • Help creating a safety plan. A safety plan is an important tool for managing risk of further harm to individuals experiencing abuse, as well as to their children. The individual experiencing abuse guides the development of the safety plan, so it is tailored to their strengths, needs, risks, abilities, resources and circumstances. Safety plans often cover:
    • A contingency plan for child care (if applicable)
    • Emergency shelter
    • What to have ready to take with them if they leave home
    • Information on how to stay safe while in contact or living with the person causing harm
  • Confidential help deciding how to make a report of domestic abuse. There are options for keeping your report of domestic abuse confidential in the military. One option, a restricted report, allows victims to seek the full range of FAP services and medical care, but does not trigger an investigation by military law enforcement, notify command or involve the abusive spouse/partner in any way. Some state-specific laws may require medical providers to report known or suspected incidents of domestic abuse to law enforcement regardless of a victim’s preferences. Contact your local FAP or Legal Assistance Office to learn more. Another option is an unrestricted report, which offers victims all FAP services, but also includes notification to military law enforcement and command for investigation.
  • Help getting a Military Protection Order. An MPO is issued by a military commander and may order the service member to stay away from the victim, as well as refrain from all contact. Commanders can tailor their orders to meet the specific needs of the victim. It is important to remember that neither a restraining order nor an MPO will prevent the abuser from returning home or entering the victim’s workplace, but it does make it illegal for them to do so. For more information on MPOs, you may wish to meet with a domestic abuse victim advocate, who can guide you through the process and answer any questions.
  • Help connecting to civilian resources. You may decide to seek help for domestic abuse, including legal services, transitional housing or filing for a civil protection order. Domestic abuse victim advocates can assist you with referrals to trusted community partners. Contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 for immediate help on civilian, community-based resources for domestic violence in your area.

If you are experiencing domestic abuse and are seeking help, visit the Domestic Abuse Victim Advocate Locator to find the closest Family Advocacy Program, or contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 800-799-7233 to be connected with an advocate for immediate emotional support and safety planning.

Call 911 if you are in immediate danger of assault or physical injury. If you are on a military installation, call your military law enforcement office.

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