When a military member, or family, decides to adopt, it is a little bit different than most adoptions. While private adoptions are largely the same, regardless of the occupation of the adopting family, there are a few things to anticipate when filing to foster to adopt.
#1 – Have a plan in place for deployments.
Not every military family gets a lot of notice for deployments and homecomings. This can be traumatic for kids who are already dealing with abandonment issues stemming from their biological family. It’s helpful for every military family to sit down and brainstorm ways they can stay connected (and help their child/children feel connected during times of separation. Write out the plan. And if a single military member is adopting, having a plan in place for the child once they go will also help social workers understand the family dynamic and go a long way to prove the commitment of the adopting parent.
#2- The Military will pay for it. Well, some of it.
According to the Department of Defense, the military will reimburse families for qualifying expenses of $2000 per child, or $5000 per year. This is in addition to any available tax credit. (At the time of press, the Adoption Tax Credit is not refundable, but it may assist in offsetting tax responsibility.) Adoptions can be nearly cost free (as is the case when using a public agency and adopting from foster care) or can cost upwards of $40,000. The military does try to help to make this less of a hurdle.
#3 – Timing is EVERYTHING.
Time to get personal. In 2012, my husband and I started the process to adopt from foster care in our state. We started the application process with an agency who assured us they were familiar with working with military families. Soon I realized this wasn’t going to work.
About six weeks after our first meeting, the agency was asking if I could forward forms to my husband for him to sign and fill out. There were some I could do on his stead (like applications for clearances – which, by the way, you’ll have to have for every duty station for the past six years). But then they asked me send him some paperwork. Um… no. I couldn’t. My husband was on a submarine. Which means no mail service.
“When is he going to port?” they’d ask.
I’d have to be honest, “I don’t know.”
“Well, when will he be back so we can schedule a home study with both of you?”
“I don’t know.”
They didn’t like my answer, but in our branch of the Navy, we get less than 24 hours notice of homecomings and deployments. Most agencies don’t work that fast. In fact, we didn’t find one that did. That caused us to shelve our plans to adopt until he had a rotation on shore duty in 2015.
Luckily, in 2014 he was on land for a significant period of time and his command was agreeable to letting him out of shifts so that we could attend mandatory classes and meetings. We were able to get our foster license in 2015. By the time we were able to get our clearances back from everywhere he had served, and get on the list, the people we had gone to class with earlier that year had already finalized their adoptions. And here we were – just getting on the list…
If the adopting family happens to PCS during the process, they will have to work with the states to get the child over state lines – just like any other out of state adoption. This can cause more delays.
The delays can be incredibly frustrating, but keep in your heart that your children are out there and they are family –they just don’t know it yet.