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Creating a Family Care Plan
Deployment can be a stressful time for military families. An important way to ease stress and boost family resilience and readiness is to make sure your family has a plan in place for when you are called to duty away from home. Use the tools, tips and resources below to create a family care plan that designates back-up caregivers and outline responsibilities to help position your family for emotional, physical and financial well-being during your absence.
Although the specific requirements of a family care plan may vary among the military services and with individual circumstances, all plans must contain the following information:1
- Names and contact information of the caregiver and an alternate caregiver. You will be required to sign a statement certifying that the caregivers have accepted responsibility for care of your dependent family members.
- Provisions for short-term absences and long-term absences. Examples of short-term absences include temporary duty for education or training, and long-term absences include deployment or call to active duty for members of the reserve.
- Financial arrangements. Preparing your finances before you deploy can contribute to the self-sufficiency and financial security of dependent family members while you are away.
In addition to the basic components of a family care plan, there are other legal factors that you should address as you prepare for time away from your family:
- Determine custody arrangements of your children. Short- and long-term absences may affect your current custody agreement. Work with an attorney or consult your installation's legal office to negotiate custody of your children while you are away and when you return. If applicable, obtain the consent of the non-custodial biological or adoptive parent for your family care plan. If the individual does not consent, you should seek legal counsel to determine the best course of action and include an explanation of the circumstance in your plan.3
- Prepare a power of attorney. It will also be necessary to appoint a responsible individual to make decisions on your behalf. A power of attorney will allow you to legally grant a selected individual to act on your behalf. Before you execute a power of attorney, be sure you establish a clear understanding of the expectations, responsibilities and duration, between yourself and the individual you choose.4
For more information on how to create a family care plan, read the Military OneSource articles How to Create a Family Care Plan for Caregivers and Leaving Your Children With a Caregiver During Deployment. You can also access face-to-face assistance through your installation's Family and Community Support Center. Visit the MilitaryINSTALLATIONS database and select your installation for contact information. Family and Community Support Centers have counselors experienced in creating family care plans and some even offer classes on this subject.2 As your family grows or encounters significant change, be sure to revise your plan to keep it current.
Communicating your Family Care Plan
It is important to keep the lines of communication open and share your family care plan with your caregivers and family before your absence. Communicating and working through challenges early in the process will ensure that your caregiver and family members are fully prepared and will also help manage expectations during your absence. Below are some guidelines on how to communicate your family care plan:1
- Brief the caregiver on financial, medical, legal, educational and logistical arrangements of the family care plan and provide him/her with copies of any necessary legal documents.
- Talk with the caregiver about routines, rules, interests, comfort items and special activities your family enjoys to help create a smoother transition.
- Discuss with your caregiver the potential behavioral changes of children during a long-term separation and assist the caregiver in determining how best to support, sustain and assist your children during a deployment or other separation.
- Give the caregiver suggestions for how to communicate with your children about you, your absence and your return.
- Provide your caregiver with information on existing military family support resources from which he/she can receive assistance. Share resources such as the location and points of contact for family support groups, community and family support centers, schools, social service organizations and on-line support centers.
By creating and communicating a strong family care plan, military parents can strengthen family bonds, set caregivers up for success with the right tools and resources and ease the stress of separation as they prepare for a short- or long-term absence.
- Blue Star Families
- Defense Department's Single Parents fact sheet [PDF 24.72 KB]
- Military Child Education Coalition
- Military Kids Connect
- Military One Click
- Military OneSource – Child Care Options
- Military OneSource – Military Deployment Guide: Preparing You and Your Family for the Road Ahead
- National Military Family Association – Family Care Plans
- National Guard Family Program – Child Care Benefits
- Sesame Workshop
- Strong Families Strong Forces
- Zero to Three
3"Child Custody Considerations for Members of the Military," Military OneSource. Last accessed March 3, 2014.
4"Documents for a Deployed Service Member's Designated Family Caregiver," Military OneSource. Last accessed March 3, 2014.