As the sole care giver in charge while the deployed service member is away, there are many steps you can take to make everyday home life go more smoothly. But what if something happens to you during the deployment? Who would care for the children? Just as single parents and dual-military couples must create a Family Care Plan spelling out how their children will be cared for in their absence, you can do the same by creating an emergency backup plan for the children's care in the event of your absence. It isn't pleasant to think about an accident or illness, but if the unexpected does happen, having a plan in place will lessen the stress and give you peace of mind.
Before the deployment, take the time to discuss with the deploying service member who you can count on to be there for the children in an emergency and who should care for them if you became seriously hurt or ill, or die while the service member is deployed.
Before you put anything in writing, talk with the people you would want to care for the children. Ask them if they would be willing to serve as temporary caregivers in the event of an emergency.
- Short-term caregiver. This could be a neighbor, friend, or relative who would be willing to take the children for a few days until you're able to resume your role as caregiver or until longer-term arrangements can be made. Line up two or more willing friends or neighbors in case the first choice isn't available.
- Longer-term caregiver. Ideally, this person is someone who shares the values and child-rearing philosophies of the service member and is someone the children like and feel comfortable with. The person should be willing to assume temporary care for the children until the service member returns or until you can take over as caregiver again. Be sure to name an alternate longer-term caregiver in case your first choice becomes unavailable.
Here are some things to consider when deciding who will take temporary care of the children:
- Location. Will the children have to move away? Will they have to transfer to a new school or child care?
- Family situation. Does the potential caregiver have other children at home? Do the children get along with one another?
- Energy. Does the potential caregiver have the strength and the energy to be a caregiver?
- Time. Does he or she have the time to be a caregiver? Someone who works full-time and is frequently away on travel may not be the best choice.
- Expenses. Will you need to arrange for financial assistance for food and other expenses?
What to include in your backup plan
Your backup plan should include this key information:
- Emergency contacts. The names, phone numbers, and schedules of the people who have agreed to care for the children in an emergency. Note which people have agreed to care for the children in the short term and who has agreed to take over for a longer period.
- Deployed members contact information. Include the name and address of the military unit, commander or commanding officer, first sergeant or command chief, command enlisted advisor, and supervisor's name and telephone number. Include the Family Readiness Program point of contact and phone number.
- Limited power of attorney for the backup caregiver. This is something the service member should consider before deployment. This will allow the backup caregiver to authorize emergency medical care for the children. Some hospitals may not perform certain procedures without the consent of the caregiver. Your installation Legal Assistance Office can help you with this. To find the Legal Assistance Office nearest to you, use the U.S. Armed Forces Legal Assistance Legal Services Locator.
- Other important contacts. The names and phone numbers of the children's pediatrician, dentist, schools, child care providers, leaders of your place of worship, and other caregivers in their lives.
- Children's schedules. This should include the time they leave for school or child care and when they return home. Also be sure to list any afterschool activities, such as dance lessons or Scouts.
- Children's home routines. Describe bedtime rituals, homework time, and other important routines at home.
- Children's likes and dislikes. List the children's favorite toys and foods, whether they need a nightlight to sleep, and other particulars that would help the caregiver comfort them.
- Names of medications your children take regularly. Write down where you keep the prescription and include instructions on administering the medication and how to order refills.
- Allergies. A list of any food or medication allergies the children have.
- Records. Copies of the following (or instructions on where to find them)
- Military ID cards for the children if they're over ten. This will ensure that their temporary caregiver has access to services.
- Copies of the children's medical and dental plan cards if they aren't TRICARE.
- Copies of the service member's most recent military orders.
Communicating your backup plan
When the details have been sorted out, let others know about the arrangements for the children in the event of an emergency.
- Leave copies of your backup plan with key people in your life. Give the plan to each of the emergency caregivers, your employer, close friends, and family members. Keep a copy at home as well.
- Leave an emergency contact list at children's schools and with child care providers. Be sure to write down the names and numbers of the people who are authorized to pick up the children and who will care for them in both the short- and long-term.
- Keep your backup plan and family information current. Should circumstances change — for instance, if the person you designated as a temporary caregiver is no longer available — find a replacement and update your backup plan accordingly. Review your plan every six months. When you make changes, be sure to notify the people with whom you've left your plan.
You may never need to put the emergency backup plan into action. But having one in place should give you one less thing to worry about during the service member's deployment.