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Leaving Your Children With a Caregiver During Deployment

in home child care worker

If you are a service member leaving your child with a caregiver during deployment, doing some planning and organizing in advance can help make adjustments easier for everyone.

The following tips can increase the chance of a successful transition and help things run smoothly while you’re away.

Cover the basics:

  • Establish a family care plan. A family care plan is a required deployment readiness document that lists the child’s caregivers during a single or dual-military parent’s deployment. It should include necessary information and documentation, such as powers of attorney and other legal forms, health records and medical information, financial and logistical arrangements, details on how to access installation services, and any other information a caregiver might need to manage the household and care for children while the service member is away.
  • Prearrange your child’s finances. Don’t forget to set aside some extra cash for unexpected items such as new toys, prom pictures or other fun money. You can set up an allotment or direct deposit to the caregiver’s account with the pay clerk at your unit’s personnel office, or you can use the myPay online service.
  • Explain how relationships change. Talk to the caregiver and your child about how their relationship will change. At first, it may be difficult for your child to see the caregiver as a confidant or authority figure, especially if they are not used to having them around.
  • Keep your child at home. Deployment may be easier for children if they can stay in their own home. A nonmilitary caregiver may move into your military housing to care for your child during your deployment. Discuss this option early in the process to prepare your child and the caregiver for changes and adjustments.
  • Track behavioral changes. Let the caregiver know that your child may have behavioral changes while you are gone and that those changes are normal. Younger children may become clingy and fearful. Older children may act out, have trouble paying attention or experience sleep problems. Make sure your child’s extended family, teachers, coaches and religious leaders know about your deployment so they can offer support. If these behaviors don’t go away over time, the caregiver may want to seek help. Free non-medical counseling is available for children and youth through Military OneSource. Children ages 6-12 are eligible for family sessions in person or video with a parent or gaurdian present. For youth ages 13-17, a parent or guardian must be present at the start of each session to give consent. The Military and Family Life Counseling Program can also provide support to children under 18 with written consent from a parent or guardian.
  • Make notes about routines. Knowing what the normal routines are can help your caregiver get settled and prevent unnecessary conflict. Maintaining normal routines can help provide a sense of stability for children during transitions.
  • Check in often. Establish a regular time for phone calls and internet chats with the caregiver and children. Let the caregiver know how they can reach you if your children need to talk. This is important for maintaining relationships during and after deployment.

Looking for your school liaison?

Contact your local school liaison for all of your pre-K-12 education needs.

Moving a child to the caregiver’s home

If it is necessary to move your children, the following tips can help make the transition easier.

  • Make the new home child friendly. A safe place for youngsters to play or a quiet study zone for older youth are just two ways to help your child adjust to a new home.
  • Find out about school admission requirements. When children change schools during a parent’s deployment, they might need their immunization records or might move up to the next grade in a certain class. Learn more about the available support for helping children change schools, from school liaisons and special education support to the Interstate Compact on Educational Opportunity for Military Children. You can also read more about ways to stay connected to your child’s teachers during your deployment.
  • Look for similar programs in the new location. If your child has special needs, make sure a move doesn’t disrupt services by accessing services such as an individualized education program or a Section 504 plan. Learn more about military special education and child care resources, such as the Exceptional Family Member Program, or EFMP. Your installation school liaison can assist you with making your child’s transition a smooth one.
  • Make sure your high school student doesn’t miss graduation. Your local installation school liaison can help with all of your education-related questions and issues, including making sure your teen stays on track for graduation. Work with your liaison to verify the out-of-state high school’s graduation requirements. Contact the new school’s administrative office before your senior enrolls to ensure your teen has taken all the required courses, or can be registered for the necessary classes, to graduate on time.
  • Emphasize equal treatment. Caregivers may have their own children at home. If the caregiver’s children get sent to their rooms for disobeying, the caregiver might want to establish similar consequences for your child to be fair and avoid resentment. Discuss this with your child and the caregiver.
  • If possible, introduce your child or teen to people in the new environment to make the transition easier. It’s always nice to know someone when you move. Ask your installation school liaison about the youth sponsorship program and check out more ways to help your children cope with moving.
  • Make sure the new home has a safe sleep environment for your baby. If you have an infant or newborn, use a crib, bassinet or other approved sleeping space that has a firm, flat surface. For cribs, make sure the mattress is firm and only use a fitted sheet. For more information, visit: Safe Sleep Environment for Baby.

Planning is especially important when deployment happens suddenly. In this case:

  • Choose an interim caregiver. Ask a trusted neighbor or close friend to fill in as an interim caregiver until your child’s predetermined caregiver can take over. Be sure to name the interim caregiver in your family care plan and include a special power of attorney for the interim caregiver.
  • Maintain an emergency fund. To be sure you have immediate funds for your child should a deployment pop up quickly, create an emergency fund. Speak to a financial counselor through your installation Personal Financial Management Services office located at the Military and Family Support Center. Military OneSource also offers free financial counseling, accessible by calling 800-342-9647, OCONUS/international calling options, or via live chat.

Planning ahead and preparing as a family can help everyone adjust a little more easily to the changes that deployment brings. Whether you’re on your first tour of duty or your fourth, Plan My Deployment helps you, your family members and loved ones prepare for – and stay strong and connected through – every phase of deployment.

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