“I had to leave the hospital early after having gone through that trauma because I had a 4-year-old at home,” she said. “Without family and friends in the area, without any childcare, I had to be at home.”
Roth-Douquet’s story is just one example of the significant challenges military spouses face. Frequently moving into new communities, military families often lack comprehensive support systems during times of need.
Following her experience, Roth-Douquet felt something had to change. “I got together with a number of other military family members to say, ‘We can do better for this community of people who are serving,’” she said.
In 2009, Roth-Douquet founded Blue Star Families, a nonprofit dedicated to helping families deal with the challenges of military life. “We decided to create a platform where people who serve the nation and their families could have a seat at the table to talk about what the challenges were and also to design the potential solutions and find the right partners to make those solutions real,” Roth-Douquet said.
Blue Star Families now includes more than 100,000 members. Roth-Douquet believes her organization has tapped into a desire for more personalized help for military families.
“Most military families are millennials or younger,” she said. “They don’t want help from institutions, they want it from their friends and neighbors.” The nonprofit seeks to connect military families with each other to foster a sense of community.
Another key element of Blue Star Families is its attention to data. It sends an annual survey to members for the purpose of identifying trends and concerns among military families that may have been hidden in the past.
“People feel a higher degree of trust around our survey, because they feel like they’re talking to their friends or neighbors,” Roth-Douquet said. “We were some of the first people to identify the military-spouse unemployment problem. We also have been able to see a real spike in how concerned service members are about the amount of time spent away from their families.”
Roth-Douquet, who earned her MPA from the Woodrow Wilson School, said that her education “has enormously influenced the way I look at this group and look at solving problems. We bring the community themselves into the solution.”
Looking to the future, Roth-Douquet hopes to bring Blue Star Families chapters to all 50 states. “We believe we can fix this problem,” she said. “It’s a matter of telling the story, using technology, and using partnerships to do it.”