The Foreign Service Journal, December 2023

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | DECEMBER 2023 43 SNEA and on associated medical clearance issues. For the first several years, FSFDA’s efforts were thwarted by direct opposition from some leaders within the department who repeatedly rejected reform proposals despite numerous negative consequences to employees, families, and the department: involuntary curtailments when post medical clearances were lifted midtour, breaking onward assignments, and families being forced to separate as employees completed assignments. Evans was frequently contacted by employees seeking advice about how to resolve issues related to their family challenges. Experiences were so traumatic in some cases that the affected employees resigned from the Foreign Service. Others remained but decided to avoid bidding on overseas assignments until the situation changed. Given the wholesale lack of responsiveness—and sometimes hostility—of department leadership at that time, Evans encouraged FSFDA members to contact members of Congress and even reporters. Several members of Congress wrote letters expressing concern to the department; articles noting employee concerns appeared in Foreign Policy and The Washington Post. The Foreign Service Journal covered the issue extensively, and Evans coauthored a 2016 FSJ Speaking Out on “Supporting FS Families with Special Needs Children.” He worked closely with AFSA leadership in seeking reforms. He also found an ally within the ranks of senior managers in the Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM). Mark Evans meets with a group of Swedish youth in Stockholm. “That proved to be a godsend,” says Evans. “Working in tandem, we were able to push through numerous, desperately needed changes within the FAM regarding the SNEA program— a clearer definition of what SNEA would provide funding for and how to qualify for that funding, and eventually an appeals process for when funding was denied.” At GTM’s request, Evans also redrafted extensive portions of 3 FAM governing the provision of SNEA. Those changes, which resolved many employee concerns, were adopted at the end of 2019 despite active opposition from some within the department. When it became apparent in 2020 that true change couldn’t happen without leadership change in the office governing the administration of SNEA, Evans advocated for this, gathering Change is possible. It may take years and only succeed when you find the right allies, but if you truly believe in what you are doing and are stubborn enough to stick with it, things may eventually improve and even get turned around. —Mark Evans