Refusing to Be Erased
An Example to Learn From:
Social work practice standards … follow a client-centered approach that allows the client to be the expert of their own “personal situation and social reality.”
Sometimes, well meaning individuals feel moved enough to help people they do not necessarily relate to. Altruism can be a powerful thing. I am not discouraging people who did not grow up as a TCK from helping TCK’s. However, it is important to assess the approach used in helping others.
Social work practice standards, for example, follow a client-centered approach that allows the client to be the expert of their own “personal situation and social reality” (please see page 2, in this example from a service organization’s description of “Client-Staff Relationship”). Note the role of the community in a client-centered approach, which also follows what is called the “strengths-based perspective”: there is a recognition of the “importance of drawing from the strengths of an individual’s family and community when developing a plan” (please see page 1, paragraph 2).
Let’s examine a case affecting U.S. military brats today. Members from the U.S. military brat community launched a social media protest, which became increasingly evident in early November of 2014, against the renaming of what they perceive more as an earned title than a word, “BRATS” (standing for Boldness, Responsibility, Adaptability, and Tolerance) to “CHAMPS,” in the book written by civilian mother and daughter team Debbie and Jennifer Fink, The Little C.H.A.M.P.S – Child Heroes Attached to Military Personnel (CHAMPS).
The early documented stages of the united effort to protest the use of the term “CHAMPS” may be found in 350 negative reviews of the book on Amazon. Since then, the movement, affecting an estimated 15,000,000 military brats according to Marc Curtis of MilitaryBrat.com, has grown into an increasingly united front involving a petition to President Obama (currently with more than 4000 signatures), a petition to First Lady Michelle Obama, a letter writing campaign, phone calls and statements on numerous social media venues to communicate the growing sense of intense offense taken by military brats. A December 3, 2014 Fayetteville Observer article by Susan Reynolds spells out one of the common reactions, “It upsets me that civilians like the Finks felt that a name change was necessary. Brats are fiercely protective of their heritage; I am fiercely protective of my Brat Tribe. To come into our community and change a part of our heritage without our consent is wrong.” Another common sentiment is about the dishonoring of the word “hero,” which should only be reserved for actual service men and women, according to multiple social media comments by military brats, as captured by December 1, 2014 Stripes: Japan article.
If one follows the progress and updates as events unfold on Facebook, one cannot deny the momentum this has gained, especially as one of the then CHAMPS supporters, the Military Child and Education Coalition, withdrew their endorsement of the book as of November 25, 2014. Steps are also underway that involves another endorser of CHAMPS reviewing the statements made by the military brat community, to reconsider their endorsement. The response to CHAMPS truly seems to be led by the masses of adult military brats rather than by specific leaders, including people who confess they have never used Twitter or revealed so much of themselves on Facebook ever before.
The organization dismisses how today’s adult military brats … are the invisible troops who made sacrifices alongside their parents yesterday and are therefore a resource for guidance and source for empowerment for today’s military brats.
In response, Jennifer Fink, CEO of Operation CHAMPS, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to engage “civilian communities in giving back to military and veteran families” and is “devoted to supporting families at the local military installations and from the surrounding military communities through volunteerism; providing social services; and developing awareness and cultural understanding in order to bridge the gap between the military and civilian worlds” published this official statement:
In recent weeks, Operation CHAMPS’ Facebook pages, Twitter and email accounts have been barraged by accusations that Operation CHAMPS was trying to substitute “CHAMPS” for the widely used term “BRATS” in public discourse as a way to describe the children of those who serve in the United States military. Jennifer Fink, CEO of Operation CHAMPS, called those assertions “unfounded, uninformed and untrue. The members of Operation CHAMPS understand that many children of military and veteran families proudly call themselves BRATS. We also understand that many people in the civilian and military-connected communities see the term brat in a less favorable light,” Fink added. “Neither the book, The Little CHAMPS, nor the organization it supports, Operation CHAMPS, intend in any way to replace BRATS as a term in wide usage or to demean the term in the minds of the public or the people who proudly call themselves military BRATS. The acronym CHAMPS in no way rejects or denigrates the term BRATS. Operation CHAMPS exists to provide necessary support and gratitude for military-connected children and their families.
From the above official statement, it may very well be that perhaps the Finks only meant good intentions. Sociologist, speaker, author and military “BRAT” BJ Gallagher addresses good intentions in her Dec 1, 2014 Huffington Post article: “Still, good intentions do not give you the right to change a child’s name without her consent — nor do good intentions give you the right to change the name of an entire group of millions of children (and adult children) without their consent.”
According to social work practice standards, the older military brats can serve as the perfect bridge between civilians and military families. They have been pursuing this, but have not been receiving the same level of support and recognition as Operation CHAMPS, according to long term (ie. 20-year) military brat organization leaders.
From a social work practice standpoint, the official statement does not seem to regard the military community as a strength to draw from nor does it seem to consider the military brats and families to be the experts of their own personal situations and social realities. Rather, the feedback of adult military brats, who are in more of a position to speak up for themselves than their school-aged counterparts, are dismissed. When the goals of an organization are**: (1) “Tend to all 700,000+ elementary school-aged Champs, educating their classmates and teachers.” (2) “Cultivate a sensitive school culture where all Champs feel understood and valued in every school setting.” (3) “Raise cultural competence among civilians in these 4,000 communities, and engage them to give back.” and (4) “Ease the transitions from school to school, build resiliency, reduce risk, and create understanding communities.”, one would have to wonder how the organization will show “support and gratitude” to the military brats and families.
To all the TCK’s who have experienced heated conversations like the one described above, if persons like my colleague were to manage and implement these four goals, what do you think the services would be like? This is not just hypothetical, but also a real situation that involves an extremely offended segment of our TCK tribe – roughly 15 million of them, according to a press release distributed on November 13, 2014.
**UPDATE: since this article was written, Operation CHAMPS has announced it will close, citing ” escalated divisive attacks from a group of adult children of military Servicemembers, which began as a difference of opinion regarding terminology” as the reason in its December 19, 2014 official statement. Based on this updated official statement, Operation CHAMPS seems to separate today’s adult military brats from tomorrow’s adult military brats without explanation, while believing “today’s children of military Servicemembers make heroic sacrifices and deserve the undivided support of the American people.” The organization dismisses how today’s adult military brats, who, as you will read about in “Honoring Those Who Have Come Before Us” below, are the invisible troops who made sacrifices alongside their parents yesterday and are therefore a resource for guidance and source for empowerment for today’s military brats.
According to social work practice standards, the older military brats can serve as the perfect bridge between civilians and military families. They have been pursuing this, but have not been receiving the same level of support and recognition as Operation CHAMPS, according to long term (ie. 20-year) military brat organization leaders (listed below) In the interview, military brats who have been serving the community discuss how they wish to proceed with services and programs for military brats.
Please visit this page at a later time for a link that will be added in the near future to an interview with military brats about this issue. In the interview, military brats who have been serving the community discuss how they wish to proceed with services and programs for military brats.