Mary Pastrana says she has always wanted to serve military families and is grateful for the chance to do so as NAS Patuxent River’s new Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) case manager and liaison.
As a military wife, Pastrana has firsthand knowledge of the military family lifestyle. Add to that an undergraduate degree in social work, a master’s degree in general counseling, more than 12 years of experience working in the field as a social worker and case worker, and it appears obvious she brings the right combination of education, experience and skill to the position.
“I worked with PES in Puerto Rico, which is similar to Child Protective Services here, managing social emergencies such as homelessness, domestic violence, mental health crises, and child, elder and institutional abuse,” said Pastrana, whose family has been stationed in Maryland for the past three years. “I have worked as a foster care worker and I hold a trainer certification to teach people how to become foster parents using the PRIDE model. That experience allowed me to serve families with a variety of special needs, many similar to the ones our service members experience. I have also worked as a domestic violence case worker liaison and provided community services for the homeless population. Many of my clients had chronic special needs.”
The EFMP is a mandatory enrollment program serving military families that include individuals with special needs, ensuring maximum provision of services to the family throughout the service member’s career. Special needs include special medical, dental, mental health, developmental, or educational requirements, the requirement for adaptive equipment assistive technology devices and services, and/or wheelchair accessibility, according to the CNIC website.
“I serve any qualifying dependent enrolled in EFMP who has a chronic health condition lasting six months or longer,” Pastrana noted. “Any dependent with special needs has to live with the service member, unless the service member is a geographic bachelor or the family member lives in a residential care facility.”
Pastrana can offer families information on support groups or referrals to community-based agencies, assist with housing, medical and special needs planning, and provide education plan advocacy, making sure a child receives the educational services they require.
“These services can be coordinated even before they arrive at their next duty station,” she added. “It helps the service member focus on their mission and not have to worry about finding resources. This process should help break the barriers many families experience when moving from one duty station to another.”
Since starting the job on Sept. 13, Pastrana has been utilizing her time by learning more about her duties, the case load she will handle, any updates to the program, and completing training related to EFMP. She’s anxious to use her skills and knowledge to help service members transition smoothly and learn the local resources available to them.
“EFMP is like trouble shooting for the families,” she said. “I want to help them gain whatever they need in order for them to effectively advocate for their special needs family members, and to feel empowered, as they are the experts on their lives.”
A Military Blue Star Families volunteer, Pastrana has a 9-year-old son, enjoys her Southern Maryland location and counts gardening, rock concerts, and trying new recipes among her personal hobbies.
Pastrana is located in the Fleet & Family Support Center, building #2090, on Bundy Road. Her office hours are 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday. She can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or (301)-757-1862.