In March 2008, the Family Liaison Office ( FLO ) celebrated 30 years of service to the broad Foreign Service community. This was a time to stop and remember the past and the visionary efforts of a small group of people who, with the support of senior Department of State management, worked against long odds and opposition to create this office dedicated to improving the quality of life for Foreign Service employees and family members. This was also a time for FLO to look to the future and remember that as an advocacy organization, FLO 's work is never really finished. We are excited about working to explore new opportunities, expand services, and think creatively about how to serve and reach our communities more effectively. We have a dedicated staff of tireless employees in FLO but we have always been grateful for the support and encouragement we get on a daily basis from you, the members of our family.
March 5 Celebration
On March 5, 2008 FLO celebrated its 30 Anniversary with a reception in the Benjamin Franklin Room at the Department of State. Director General of the Foreign Service Harry K. Thomas hosted the event and Keynote Speaker Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte addressed the 200 assembled guests. Other speakers included Under Secretary for Management Patrick Kennedy, FLO Director Leslie Teixeira, and former AAFSW member Lesley Dorman, who was instrumental in the founding of FLO.
In March 1977, the Association of American Foreign Service Women, now known as the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide (AAFSW), prepared a "Report on the Concerns of Foreign Service Spouses and Families", recommending the establishment of an office with the State Department which would: "provide regular and dependable dissemination of information from the foreign affairs agencies to family members in Washington and abroad; and communicate the views and needs of Foreign Service families to the foreign affairs agencies, especially on policy matters and planning affecting their welfare." It sounds like a straight forward enough recommendation but it is wasn't necessarily a smooth transition from the publication of the report to the creation of FLO. Although "family friendly" is now a normal part of the work place vocabulary, it wasn't in 1978. Businesses were not expected care about their employees' families and they certainly weren't expected to meet the needs of those families. This was uncharted territory for the FLO founders.
Despite some opposition, the idea did have high level support, from then Secretary of State Cyrus Vance, other senior mangers and ultimately the U.S. Congress. So, on March 5, 1978 FLO became an office within the Department of State - the first of its kind - with the mandate of responding to the needs of Foreign Service families coping with the disruptions caused by a mobile lifestyle and service abroad. The same AAFSW report also recommended that posts establish positions to "help coordinate community activities, locate community resources, and work to maintain or improve post morale." Several posts responded by establish such positions, which become the first Community Liaison Office (CLO) programs. Since the beginning, CLO has been a major component of the FLO .
FLO was established primarily as an advocacy organization and for 30 years we have worked to effect policy changes and create programs and services for the benefit of the Foreign Service family. From the beginning, FLO has worked to expand family member employment opportunities, to provide education counseling, to assist with reentry to the United States after a tour abroad, and to provide information and referral. Our successes include the establishment of the Community Liaison Office program, improved educational allowances, voluntary and involuntary separate maintenance allowances, numerous family member employment programs, inclusion of Members of Household (MOHs) in many services and their access to many resources (to the extent currently permissible under the law), and support for Unaccompanied Tours.
Read more about the history of the Family Liaison Office (This 56-page pdf document chronicals FLO history, its beginnings, the start of the overseas Community Liaison Office Program, and the people who contributed to FLO's successes, was compiled in March 2003.)
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