The Foreign Service Journal - March 2018

28 MARCH 2018 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL To Fix the System, Build a Partnership The current head of MED’s Office of Child and Family Programs, Kathy Gallardo, wrote in the September 2016 Foreign Service Journal : “All CFP pro- cesses work best when there is a true partnership between parents, Foreign Service medical officers overseas and the various administrative components in panel within MED to determine SNEA eligibility and clearances. Parents should be allowed to share what they feel is best for their children, and this information should carry weight in the decision process. There needs to be a transparent and fair appeals process when parents disagree with MED’s clear- ance decision, and that appeal needs to be outside of MED’s authority. Develop SOPs and Public Guidelines MED’s unwritten changes in policy and the consequent negative effects, as well as the current information vacuum, are causing harmful speculation and frustration. New and veteran Foreign Service members alike are confused and frustrated by the lack of information or the mixed information they receive. There are no standard operating proce- dures to help families navigate. There has been no formal change in the regulations to which parents can refer for guidance. Parents should be able to access writ- ten guidelines on how, when and with whom to coordinate the needs of their children. Procedures should not change in the middle of bidding season or with- out sufficient time for parents to adjust to new guidelines. There should be proper procedures in place to appeal MED deci- sions, as well. If staffing shortages are an issue, MED should seek out impartial consulta- tion on how to streamline procedures or reduce workload without sacrificing quality of service. How to Keep Families Overseas MED should be more open-minded and look at the whole picture of the family’s health and well-being. In many cases, for example, a small, international the department positioned domestically and abroad.” We parents wholeheartedly agree, but we also believe that Dr. Gallardo’s words must be translated into action, as this is definitely a broken part of the system. MED should partner with regional medical officers/psychiatrists (RMO/ Ps), the Office of Overseas Schools and outside experts in their fields to create a Parents are facing increasing pressure to keep their children in the United States, often having to choose between their career or keeping the family together.