First and foremost, thank you for your family’s service to our country! We know you make countless sacrifices (all of you) to afford the rest of us the liberties we enjoy — which is why it’s rewarding to tell you that adopting a baby or a child isn’t a sacrifice you have to make. Not only can military families bring a new member into the fold through adoption, but there are also programs to help with leave and cover the costs of military adoption.
Of course, being in the military means your life may not look like everyone else’s. What if you get orders and have to deploy in the middle of adoption proceedings? What if you learn you’re being relocated? There are definitely unique factors to consider. However, we’re happy to report that adoption for military families isn’t terribly different than adoption for any other family.
Here’s an overview of what military families should know before growing their brood through adoption.
If you’re looking for more info on other types of adoption, you can find our guides to embryo, open, closed, foster care, private, adult, international, transracial, step parent, single parent, Jewish, Christian, and same-sex adoption.
What are the types of adoptions for military families?
The three main types of adoption are basically the same across the board:
Domestic adoption, also called domestic infant adoption, is the adoption of a baby born in the United States by a family that lives in the United States. This type of adoption takes place when a birth parent legally consents to an adoptive placement, and an adoptive family assumes care of the child as their legal parents. Since military families routinely relocate, you’ll follow the laws of the state you’re stationed in at the time you apply for and complete the adoption.
International adoption is just as it sounds — it’s the process by which adoptive parents adopt a child from another country. Due to the Universal Accreditation Act of 2014, you must work with a Hague-accredited international child-placing agency if you’re interested in pursuing an international adoption. The agency you choose should also be based out of the country from which you would like to adopt your child.
When a family fosters a child and ends up adopting them, it’s affectionately referred to as a “foster failure.” And if you ask us, that’s just about the best kind of failure you can be. In this situation, a child is entrusted in your care by the state, which retains legal custody over the child. At some point, you may decide that you would like your foster to be a permanent part of your household, at which point you can petition to legally adopt. Again, though, travel is a consideration here. Since foster children are wards of the state, they won’t be able to leave with you if you’re relocated — unless you move forward with adoption.
You might want to think about working with a national agency during your adoption. That way if you do have to relocate, it’ll be relatively seamless for them to update your existing home study.
How are home studies different in military adoption?
Home studies are an integral and required step in nearly all types of adoption so knowing what will be expected of you and how you can prepare is essential to completing one successfully. In addition to home visits and interviews, a home study will inquire into the adoptive parent’s health and income status. Prospective adoptive parents will need to supply autobiographical statements detailing their life story, undergo background checks (for anyone over the age of 16 in the household), and provide personal references from three or four family members.
Can I adopt if I’m stationed overseas?
It may take a few extra steps, but you should still be able to complete the process of military adoption if you live overseas. You’ll need to work with an adoption agency to help you through the process. Not surprisingly, more travel will likely be involved — if you’re adopting domestically while living overseas, you’ll have to travel to the child’s location at the time of placement and handle your adopted child’s visa and passport requirements.
If you’re married or in a domestic partnership and only one of you is deployed overseas, the deployed partner will have to grant the other partner power of attorney. This keeps things moving forward. Even if your partner is unavailable, the power of attorney will ensure you can make the legal decisions necessary to pursue adoption.
Is there financial assistance available for military adoption?
There sure is! Military members who adopt a child under 18 years of age (including step-kids) may qualify for reimbursement of expenses up to $2,000 per adoptive child per calendar year. Called the Department of Defense Adoption Reimbursement Program, this initiative offers a maximum of $5,000 per year for multiple adoptions. So, keep meticulous files. Qualifying expenses include things like agency fees, home study fees, medical fees, legal fees, and more.
A few caveats do exist. The service member must be active duty at the time the request for reimbursement is filed. Additionally, expenses incurred by a non-military-connected step-parent while adopting the military member’s child do not qualify. And when you’re ready to request reimbursement, you must fill out and submit a DD Form 2675 — no later than one year from the time your adoption is finalized.
Are there any reimbursement programs for veterans?
Should a veteran find that they have service-connected infertility and opt to grow their family through adoption, they can apply to receive reimbursement for the same qualifying adoption expenses as active-duty families. More information can be found on the Veteran Administration’s website.
Do military members get leave when adopting?
Military adoption leave is a possibility once an adopted child is placed with you, but you’ll definitely want to keep the lines of communication with your commanding officer open. Also, regulations vary by branch of service, so you’ll need to familiarize yourself with the guidelines that apply to your family. You’ll need to visit your local Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) office or directly to your commander to discuss what options and how much time are available to you.
Have the regulations in hand. When you go into DEERS or to speak to your commander about leave, have the regulations that apply to your branch of service to back you up. We know you deserve it, but there is always that one individual that may not be aware of your entitlements.
Are adopted children of military parents eligible for Tricare?
Will your newly adopted family member qualify for your military healthcare? Good news — once you have a court order for the placement and the child (under the age of 18) becomes your legal dependent, they may very well be eligible for military health benefits. In order for your child to be eligible, you’ll need to have them enrolled in the DEERS system. Your local DEERS enrollment office can help you figure out the logistics.
Did you know you can foster to adopt?
Many military members believe that because of their service commitments, they won’t qualify to be a foster parent. In many states, that’s simply not true. Enlisted persons are allowed to foster — even if they live on base. Of course, there are situations that might require some consideration. Is your job one that will see you relocating often? If so, that could weigh negatively on your foster application. Don’t be disheartened, though! If foster care is an option weighing on your heart and you know you likely won’t be moving bases soon, why not take the steps? Once you begin fostering a child, it can actually become much easier to adopt.
Are there any other considerations of military adoption?
Certain aspects of adoption will inherently be different for military members. If you’re in the middle of an adoption and you get deployment orders, your first inclination may be to melt down. But take a deep breath, Mama — you may be able to request to defer your deployment until after the adoption is finalized so as not to disrupt the process. A single adoptive parent or one member of an adoptive couple could be eligible for up to a four-month deployment deferment.
Once the adoption is official (yay!), you’ll find that there are certain military benefits that might make life a little easier. The Department of Defense oversees hundreds of child development centers globally, and these offer safe and affordable childcare for service members at nearby installations. Bonus? Your installation’s family center can likely fill you in on support groups for military families who’ve adopted.
As you well know, one of the greatest parts of military life is the sense of community. You’ll find that same warm sense of camaraderie extends to your new family member in more ways than you might imagine.
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