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Black Families Navigating EFMP and Disabilities


A Black military family enrolled in the Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) can face unique challenges. The EFMP supports military families with members who have special medical or educational needs. However, it’s important to recognize that Black military families may face additional hurdles due to systemic inequalities and cultural factors. Some common challenges that Black military families may face include:

1. Limited Access to Culturally Competent Healthcare

Many Black military families can encounter difficulties finding healthcare providers who understand and respect their cultural background. This can affect the quality of care and support received for children, especially those with disabilities or diagnoses such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Some examples of limited access to culturally competent healthcare include the lack of diversity training and awareness. This can happen anywhere, but especially when PCSing (moving) to a place where Blacks are a minority.

2. Importance of Culture Sensitivity in Healthcare

Suppose healthcare providers lack adequate training on cultural sensitivity and the specific health concerns and experiences faced by Black military families. In that case, not only can this lead to misunderstandings (causing Black families to feel like their concerns are not being heard), but it can also result in suboptimal care, including a lack of appropriate screenings and treatment options.

A common stigma around ADHD in the Black community is that Black parents are lazy or lack discipline. We know that this is false as ADHD is a complex condition with multiple factors that contribute to the diagnosis.

To help Black families feel more comfortable, healthcare providers could start with questions promoting open and inclusive communication, such as: Are there any cultural or religious beliefs we should consider when discussing your healthcare options? Have you had any previous experiences with the healthcare system that have influenced your trust or preferences? Are there any specific concerns or questions about your health that you would like to address? Can we do anything to make you feel more comfortable and respected during your visits? Are there any alternative or complementary treatment options you want to explore?

When it comes to understanding and addressing ADHD and disabilities in Black communities, cultural factors play a significant role. It is important to recognize that cultural norms, beliefs, and values can influence how Black communities perceive and address ADHD and disabilities. By considering cultural factors, we can develop more effective strategies that are sensitive to the unique needs and experiences of Black children with ADHD and disabilities.

3. Racial Disparities in Healthcare

Black children with ADHD may face disparities in diagnosis and treatment more often than their counterparts. We are more prone to experience unconscious biases more frequently than any other race. This is especially seen through the differences in pain management, treatment recommendations, and communication styles between healthcare providers and Black families. As Black parents, it’s important to advocate for equal access to resources and ensure your child receives the appropriate support.

Representation and inclusivity are also crucial in the context of ADHD and disabilities in Black children. When Black children see themselves represented in media, literature, and other forms of representation, it can positively impact their self-esteem and sense of belonging. Inclusive representation helps to break down stereotypes and misconceptions, creating a more supportive and empowering environment for Black children with ADHD and disabilities.

4. Educational Disparities

Black children with ADHD or special needs may face disparities in their educational experiences. This can include unequal access to quality education, limited representation of black students in gifted programs, and disproportionate disciplinary actions. Black children with ADHD are often looked at as out of control, unteachable, and a distraction. They also receive more disciplinary actions and are given fewer chances, if any, at a higher than other races. Parents must address barriers like this and continue advocating for their children’s education needs.

5. Navigating the Military System

Navigating the military system as a Black family comes with its challenges and experiences. As a Black family, we must recognize that the system may not always reflect our cultural background or experiences, so finding other Black families is imperative to help provide a sense of community, support, and overall representation.

The military lifestyle can be demanding, and navigating the system while also managing the needs of a child with disabilities can be overwhelming. It’s essential to understand the resources available through the EFMP program and seek support from other military families who may have similar experiences.

6. Balancing Multiple Responsibilities

Military families often must juggle the demands of their service obligations, family life, and the needs of a child with disabilities. Finding a balance and support system is crucial to managing these responsibilities effectively. Balancing all the duties that come along definitely requires time management. Ways to help can include prioritizing tasks, creating routines, setting realistic expectations, and recognizing that each day will be different.

Understanding the unique experiences of Black families navigating children with ADHD and disabilities is crucial for fostering inclusivity and providing the necessary support. A more inclusive and supportive environment can be created by recognizing and acknowledging the specific challenges they face. This requires promoting awareness, empathy, and culturally sensitive approaches to ensure Black families can access the necessary resources and assistance. It’s essential to listen to their stories, amplify their voices, and actively work towards dismantling barriers that may hinder their children’s development. So, to all the families navigating this journey, you are not alone. Remember to stay strong; if no one hasn’t told you lately, you’re doing a fantastic job!

About the Author

Mary Monrose has been a Navy spouse for over 14 years. She and her husband share three children: DJ, Amirah, and Felix. Mary and her husband are wrapping up a 2-year Geo-Bach tour, where she and her kids currently reside in Hawaii. Mary is the Policy Officer for Partners in PROMISE. She also has a podcast called Shine Sis, where she and her co-host empower military spouses and like-minded women to find their purpose in life. Mary holds a Master of Arts in Law, a Bachelor in Justice Administration, and an Associate in Paralegal Studies. Mary is a passionate advocate who enjoys helping others amplify their voices.

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