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Taking On

Family Member

Employment. Really!



Debra Blome is a former associate editor of

The Foreign

Service Journal.

She currently lives in Jerusalem with

her husband, FSO Donald Blome, and their family. In

her more than 20 years as an EFM, Debra has tried all

the employment options: she has worked inside the mission, on the

local economy and as an independent contractor for a U.S. orga-

nization. She has also spent many hours as a volunteer when paid

employment was unavailable.


or eligible family members (EFMs) in the

Foreign Service, the process of finding

employment isn’t easy and never has been.

The reasons are obvious: frequent moves,

language barriers and limited options, to

name just a few.

But what is new is that the Foreign Ser-

vice has now tasked itself with really doing

something about it.

Compare how the issue was treated in the State Depart-

ment and U.S. Agency for International Development’s Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review. The


ever QDDR, released in 2010, devoted an entire chapter to

Family member employment is a critical issue for members of the U.S. Foreign Service.

The State Department finally seems to be taking it seriously.


“Working Smarter”—without ever mentioning family member

employment. The new QDDR, released in April 2015, discusses

expanding opportunities for family member employment as

part of the section titled “Adapting our Organizations to Take

Care of Our People.”

“Two-career families are increasingly the norm in both Amer-

ican society and in the Foreign Service,” the report states. “This

means that ensuring opportunities for spousal employment

should be an integral part of our plans to retain and motivate


The report says State and USAID will strengthen efforts to

build EFM career tracks, use EFMs to fill existing staffing gaps

when possible, and create a database of EFM skills to help

spouses find jobs both at post and in Washington. It also pledges

that State and USAID will expand programs already in existence,

and will “pursue mechanisms” to facilitate the security clearance

process, so EFMs can begin work at post without a “lengthy”


(Though the QDDR document is a product of State and

USAID, the EFM policies and reforms it calls for apply to employ-

ees of all the foreign affairs agencies under chief-of-mission

authority on an assignment abroad.)