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Adoption or foster parenting are loving ways to give a child a home. Both require a lot of thought and planning, particularly for military families. You can support the military family in your life by being aware of the unique bumps they may encounter, and learning about resources that can help smooth the way toward adoption or foster parenting.
Considerations in foster parenting and adoption for military families
Frequent moves and deployments are among the factors military families should plan for in considering adoption or foster care.
- Moving. The adoption process is typically a long one, requiring home visits, background checks and lots of paperwork. Background checks are required at each location where a family has lived, so if the military family in your life has moved a lot, the process may take longer. It’s best to start the process with ample time before the next PCS move. Moving midway through the adoption process can hold things up and the family may have to repeat some costly steps in their new location. Foster families are licensed by the state, so those considering foster parenting should apply well before their next PCS move. Your loved one can learn more by researching state resources for both adoption and foster parenting.
- Living overseas. Both foreign and U.S. adoptions are possible when living overseas, though it’s a good idea to find an adoption agency that works with U.S. citizens living abroad. The adoption agency or the military law enforcement office at your loved one’s overseas duty station may be able to help with required criminal background checks.
- Deployment. If deployed during the adoption process, it’s important that your service member keep command informed. Leadership may be able to adjust dates to accommodate adoption or foster care requirements. The partner at home may be able to use their power of attorney for some parts of the adoption or foster process. Your loved ones can check with their military legal services office about legal requirements.
Defense Department support for foster parents and military adoptions
The DOD provides access to the following to make the process go more smoothly.
- Military OneSource adoption specialty consultants. Adoption specialty consultants are specially trained in military adoptions and foster care. They can walk parents through the process for either, provide referrals and answer questions. Military OneSource also offers information about overseas adoptions, adopting children with special needs, kinship adoptions and more. Your service member can schedule a free consultation by calling 800-342-9647.
- Adoption expenses reimbursement. The military reimburses service members for eligible adoption expenses of $2,000 per child not to exceed $5,000 per calendar year.
- Military dependent benefits. Adopted or foster children are eligible for TRICARE health care and other benefits when a service member gains legal custody or guardianship, but they must first enroll the child in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System. Information about enrolling a new family member in DEERS is available through Military OneSource, 800-342-9647.
- Family leave. New adoptive parents may be authorized up to 21 days of leave apart from their regular leave.
- Child development and youth programs. Foster children may participate in military child development and youth programs along with their peers.
If a military family in your life is considering adoption or foster care, your knowledge of the process will allow you to cheer them on along their path and encourage them to tap into the resources that will smooth any bumps along the way.