AFSA Welcomes New Policy to Support Foreign Service Families with Special Needs Children

For Immediate Release
July 2, 2019
Contact: Ásgeir Sigfússon,

Washington, D.C. – The American Foreign Service Association welcomes the announcement of new guidance that clarifies Department of State policy with regard to members of the Foreign Service with children with special educational needs. The new policy explicitly encourages these members “to bid on and serve in foreign assignments,” declaring that “[it] is in the Department’s interest to facilitate the overseas capacity of our workforce, but more important, it is our ethos to put our people first.”

These new guidelines make clear that it is not Department policy that Foreign Service families with special needs children should return to the United States and remain in domestic assignments. To the contrary, the new policy recognizes that it is in the Department’s interest to enable members of the Foreign Service—including those with children with special educational needs--to represent America at embassies and consulates overseas. The new guidance details practical steps to make this possible. To read the update in full please see 3 FAM 3280.

AFSA applauds these reforms, which are the result of a review by a Department-wide work group convened last fall by Deputy Under Secretary for Management William Todd and announced by Under Secretary of State for Management Brian Bulatao on June 28.

AFSA, which has persistently flagged issues affecting families with special educational needs as one of the most widespread and deeply felt “pain points” affecting the Foreign Service, would like to recognize the hard work done by these and other Department officials, including Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Steve Walker, to develop and execute these changes.

AFSA, the voice of the Foreign Service, is the professional association and labor union of the U.S. Foreign Service. Founded in 1924, AFSA represents 31,000 active and retired Foreign Service employees at the Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development, Foreign Commercial Service, Foreign Agricultural Service, the U.S. Agency for Global Media, and the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.