Report on the Concerns of Foreign Service Spouses and Families

Following the establishment of the 1976 FORUM and survey of Foreign Service Women, the AAFSW wrote the Report on the Concerns of Foreign Service Spouses and Families. This report compiled the results of the survey and findings of key working groups and prepared a list of 11 recommendations. The AAFSW presented the report to Department of State officials, including Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. The report was widely accepted and several recommendations were instituted swiftly.


With the Forum Report and its implementation, AAFSW came into its own as an advocate for the Foreign Service families. Important contributions included, in addition to the Family Liaison Office, establishment of AAFSW as a registered lobbying group, thus providing effective access to the Congress, the review and improvement of the entire evacuation processes, the founding of a Skills Bank for spouses, expansion of the education advisory office, three support groups, one for Foreign Service children, one for Foreign-born spouses and one for divorced spouses.

Betty Atherton interview with ADST, excerpt from transcript, p. 28

Jean Vance (1990)[ADST interview][Speech audio recording] Transcript file from, p. 64

Q: And it took a year all together?

VANCE: No, the Forum Committee was formed in August of 1976, and we presented our report in March of 1977. So it took us six months, and I think that was better because we were working under pressure and enthusiasm.

Jean Vance

Jean Vance (1990)[ADST interview][Speech audio recording] Transcript file from, p. 65-66

Q: What were the major recommendations? You’ve got the Forum Report there in your hand, I believe.

VANCE: First we stated the problems, and we formed our committees, and the recommendations were first: to establish a new relationship between the Department of State and the spouses of Foreign Service employees based on recognition of mutual responsibilities. The second recommendation was, create a family liaison office. And the third was, improve the training provided spouses to insure that it meets their needs in training languages and other cross-cultural skills, etc. And four, to review and clarify representational responsibilities, and explore ways to compensate spouses for their work and expenses. And that still hasn’t been done. That’s very difficult to cope with. And five, the 30 day temporary housing allowance for families returning to Washington should be extended. And six, review the quality of medical care provided for Foreign Service families, particularly at posts abroad, and take prompt action to improve medical care worldwide. Counseling for mental health problems should be expanded. This was something new, and it was new to me, using paraprofessional counselors abroad. This was something we ran into a great deal of difficulty with, that particular recommendation. And seven, recognize the diverse skills and talents of spouses, and work to integrate these into the post community abroad. Maintain a catalogue of the spouses’ skills talents in a bank. And I think that is very, very good. And that took a long time to implement because it was very expensive, and then we had to get the information from the posts about what jobs were available, and we had to encourage the women to go and register with the spouses’ skills talent bank. But now it’s operating very well. Then the eighth is, to review family educational requirements, and work to minimize the adverse effects of Foreign Service life on educational continuity, and to improve schools, and also to have more information about the boarding schools available in the United States, and how to apply for admission to universities and what the requirements are, etc. Have an educational counselor in FLO, the Family Liaison Office. And the ninth recommendation, provide financial support for ad hoc community efforts to improve teenage morale abroad. I remember when Stephen and Robert were in Ethiopia; Stephen, during the summer he was there, did over the telephone book the directory of essential telephone numbers, and the telephone numbers of the people in the embassy. But he wasn’t paid for the work because Sheldon was the DCM and thought it improper to pay his son. Stephen did a wonderful job, and he got a recommendation, but it would have been a lot of fun if he’d had maybe $50.00 to spend for something he wanted. Then the tenth is, improve evacuation procedures by sending a specially trained TDY officer to advise at posts. And the eleventh recommendation is to meet with forum participants to promote mutual understanding, and cooperation, regarding the above recommendations. We presented this to the Secretary of State — with Secretary Cyrus Vance, at the time.

Jean Vance

Jean Vance (1990)[ADST interview][Speech audio recording] Transcript file from, p. 67

Q: As I remember it took at least six months after the Forum report came out.

VANCE: We wrote the Forum report in six months, presented it to the Secretary of State, then for another six months he read it and we had appointments with the Director General, and the Under Secretary for Management, and the Personnel Director. There were a lot of people we talked to, and we did this in the State Department.

Jean Vance

AAFSW meeting with Secretary Vance to brief on the Report


Lesley Dorman (1987)[ADST interview][Speech audio recording] Transcript file from, p. 39

And then I briefed the Secretary of State, again with his full team, and that was (laughs) quite a terrifying experience. Apparently, there was quite a lot of briefing on that day, and I learned afterwards that there was a competition as to who did the best, and I’m saying this without any real modesty, but apparently I won (laughs). I was quite terrified. I always remember the Secretary saying to me… I had a brief with me, and he said, “Are you going to read that or do you want to extemporize or pull out the pieces you want.” “No,” I said, “I’m going to read it. It’s fairly short, Mr. Secretary, and then I will speak to the various points.” And it worked. It went very well. If you don’t read from your brief under those circumstances, you can be tempted to leave things out which are frightfully important. And I owed it to all the work we’d done to do my best. And we really got 100 percent support; I can really say that. It was absolutely fantastic.

Lesley Dorman interview with ADST, Tape 3a, time stamp 10:31-11:19