On any given day in America, there are over 443,000 children in the Foster care system. In 2017, 123,000 of these children were waiting to be adopted, 69,000 parents relinquished their rights and 59,400 children were adopted.1 I believe one of the most untapped resources available to make a difference in these statistics exist within our Armed Forces. Members of the military have had to be flexible and open to change and are very committed, mission-oriented people. As a retired Navy Chief and a former member of this unique community, service members collectively bring diversity in race, culture, ethnicity, and personality, and can be good candidates for foster and adoptive programs.
Military installations have built-in support networks for military families, including substantial health-care and housing benefits and “ready-made” communities. More benefits for adoptive families include adoption reimbursements, Exceptional Family Member Program (EFMP) for children (as well as adult family members) with particular medical and/or educational needs, and New Parent Support Programs on many installations.2
We have successfully placed many children with military families over the years. The process is similar to their civilian counterparts with some exceptions if living abroad:
Home studies Abroad: Social worker travels to servicemember location incurring additional costs to service member to cover lodging, meals and travel expenses.
- Pre-adoption Education: 10 hours of Hague required training, including supportive materials
- Home study visits and education provided within your home, conducted over a 3-day period.
- Follow up support provided via SKYPE and email
- Some of the challenges that service members may experience that differ from the civilian population are frequent moves (PCS) and Deployments. Permanent Change of Station (PCS) moves normally last three years or longer and the entire family moves to a new location. Deployments, on the other hand, are meant to be of a more temporary nature, generally lasting from months to years, and only the service member leaves. This may cause delays in completing the home study, but working collaboratively with the service member, it can certainly be accomplished.
- A deploying military family member will need to grant power of attorney to his or her spouse (or another family member, in the case of a single parent adoption), and more information about power of attorney is available on the Military OneSource website at Military One Source. The spouse or family member should also have a mailing address for the military member during deployment, as well as a method for reaching him or her in an emergency. It is a good idea for the military parent to keep his or her command informed about the adoption process to facilitate timely completion and delivery of essential documents.
- Dual-military families and single soldiers that are adopting may also be eligible for a four-monthdeferment of deployment or change of assignment in order to complete an adoption or welcome an adoptive child into. As with the 21 days of leave, only one member of the dual military family can take advantage of this resource. And just like the leave and reimbursement benefits, an adoption deferment must be requested within the first twelve months of placement.3
If you are stationed overseas and adopting a child in the US, your adoption may be governed by the laws of your state of legal residence as well as the state where the child resides. If you are adopting a child from another country, you will need to comply with the laws of your country of residence AND the child’s home country (if different), in addition to US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) policies. Your adoption advisor will assist you with navigating through this process.
Some of the more frequently asked questions asked by military families are answered at the Child Welfare Information Gateway site. The following is an excerpt from their bulletin entitled “Military Families Considering Adoption”3
- Am I eligible for leave when I adopt a child?
Public Law 109-163, the Fiscal Year 2006 National Defense Authorization Act, allows the Unit Commander to approve up to 21 days non-chargeable leave in a calendar year in connection with a qualifying adoption, in addition to other leave. If both parents are in the military, only one member shall be allowed leave under this new legislation. A qualifying adoption is one that is arranged by a licensed or approved private or State agency and/or court and/or other source authorized to place children for adoption under State or local law. Contact your Unit Commander’s office to determine current leave options and procedures.
The non-military parent, if relevant, may be eligible for leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), through his/her civilian employer.
- What benefits are available to help defray the cost of adopting?
Most types of adoptions may qualify for reimbursement when the adoption was arranged by a licensed, private adoption agency, State agency, and/or court, and/or other source authorized to place children for adoption under State or local law. Military adoption cost reimbursement includes up to $2,000 per child (or up to $5,000 for adoption of more than one child in a year) for qualifying expenses and is available to military families whose adoptions were arranged by a qualified, licensed adoption agency.
Adoption reimbursement is paid after the adoption is complete for certain qualifying
expenses incurred by the adopting family including adoption and home study fees. The National Military Family Association (www.nmfa.org) has a fact sheet, DoD Adoption Reimbursement Program, with more information on qualifying agencies and allowable expenses.
- Can my adopted child get medical coverage through the military?
An adopted child, including a child placed in the home of a service member by a placement agency for purposes of adoption, is eligible for benefits after the child is enrolled in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS). Contact the I.D. Card Facility for more information or patient affairs personnel at a specific medical treatment facility.
Specific information on access and eligibility is available on the TRICARE Web site (www.tricare. osd.mil/deers/newborn.ctm) or by calling the DoD Worldwide TRICARE Information Center at (888) 363-2273.
Military benefits are available for all adopted children, not exclusively children with special needs.
- What other services are available for my child and family after adoption?
Child Development Programs are available at approximately 300 DoD locations, including 800 childcare centers and approximately 9,000 family childcare homes. The services may include full day, part-day, and hourly (drop-in) childcare; part-day preschool programs; before- and after- school programs for school-aged children; and extended hours care including nights and week- ends. Not all services are available at all installations.
The Exceptional Family Member Program, within the military, provides support for dependents with physical or mental disabilities or long term medical or health care needs. They will assist families who need to be stationed in areas that provide for specific medical, educational or other services that might not be available in remote locations.
Family Service Centers located on every major military installation can provide military families with information regarding adoption reimbursement and other familial benefits. Social workers may be available for family and/or child counseling. Different designations for Family Service Centers are as follows:
- Army – Army Community Service
- Air Force – Family Support Center
- Navy – Fleet and Family Support Center
- Marine Corp – Marine Corp Community Services
- Coast Guard – Work/Life Office
Additional Resources for Military Families:
- Child Welfare Information Gateway (www.childwelfare.gov)On this website, readers can find useful fact sheets such as Adoption – Where Do I Start?, Military Families and Adoption – A Fact Sheet, and Adoption Assistance for Children Adopted From Foster Care: A Factsheet for Families. Under the ‘Resources’ section, click on ‘Publications Search’ to find these and other topical resources easily and quickly.
- National Military Family Association (NMFA) (www.nmfa.org)On this website, readers can find informative fact sheets such as Adoption Reimbursement Program Fact Sheet.
- National and Regional Exchanges (www.AdoptUSKids.org; www.adoptex.org).
- Military Spouse
- Military One Source
- U.S. Department of State, Intercountry Adoption
We honor our service members and look forward to partnering with you in your adoption journey!
written by CTMC Robbin Plows USNR, Ret and Nightlight Inquiry Specialist
1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families, Administration on Children, Youth and Families, Children’s Bureau. Adoption Foster Care Analysis Reporting System (AFCARS), FY 2008-2017, Submissions as of 08/10/2018
2Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Working with military families as they pursue adoption. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau.
3Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2016). Military families considering adoption. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau