JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-RANDOLPH, Texas (AFNS) – An up-to-date family care plan can help to ease stress and boost family resilience and readiness during a service member's absence.
Family care plans are instructions developed by service members to identify caregivers who have agreed to take care of family members during the sponsor's absence.
"One of the most important considerations of family readiness is to ensure families are taken care of when military obligations require Airmen to be away from home for training, mobilization or deployment," said Staff Sgt. Jodie Vahle, a personnel specialist with the Air Force Personnel Center's special programs branch."
Although all Airmen with family members are encouraged to develop a family care plan, only single military parents, dual military couples with family members and military members with civilian spouses who have unique family situations are required to develop written plans.
"These plans are maintained by the commander or first sergeant," Vahle said. "Civilian Airmen and contractors in emergency essential positions are also strongly encouraged to establish family care plans."
Airmen required to maintain written plans must update and verify them annually. Failure to comply with the mandatory requirements to develop and maintain a current plan may result in disciplinary or administrative action.
"You should prepare a family care plan whether you expect to deploy or not," Vahle said. "Taking care of these considerations now will help you and your family members be prepared for any period of separation."
Vahle offered the following guidance for Airmen who need to develop their plan:
- Assign a guardian for your family in a special Power of Attorney and make sure the guardian understands his or her responsibilities.
- Obtain identification and commissary cards, register in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System, and check to make sure all ID cards have not expired.
- Sign up for Servicemembers Group Life Insurance or a similar group life insurance, and update all beneficiary information.
- Arrange for housing, food, transportation and emergency needs.
- Inform your spouse or any caretakers about your financial matters.
- Arrange for your guardian to have access to necessary funds.
- Arrange for child care, education and medical care.
- Arrange for necessary travel and an escort to transfer family members to their guardian.
- Discuss your plans with your older children.
Family care plans have three basic requirements: short-term care providers, long-term care providers and care provision details.
Short-Term Care Provider - Single-parents and military couples with children must designate a non-military person who will agree, in writing, to accept care of the member's children at any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in the event the military member is called to duty or deployed with no-notice. While this person cannot be another military member, the person can be a military spouse. The short-term care provider must live in the local area where the military member is stationed. The short-term care provider must sign the family care plan, indicating that they understand the responsibilities that are being entrusted to them.
Long-Term Care Provider - In addition to the short-term care provider, the military member must also designate a non-military person, who will agree, in writing, to provide long-term care for their children in the event the military member is deployed for a significant period, or in the event they are selected for an unaccompanied overseas tour. The long-term care provider does not have to live in the local area, but the family care plan must contain provisions to transfer children from the short-term care provider to the long-term care provider (finances, airline tickets, etc.), in the event a no-notice deployment turns into a long-term deployment. The long-term care provider must sign the family care plan, indicating that they understand the responsibilities that are being entrusted to them.
Airmen and caregivers can see their first sergeant or contact the local Airman and Family Readiness Center if they need help developing their plan. The Airmen and Family Readiness Center provides readiness and pre-deployment briefings to ensure Airmen and caregivers are aware of services and have a comprehensive list of resources. They also provide sustainment programs, resources and various other services.
Military and Family Life Counselors, normally housed in the Airman and Family Readiness Center, also provide face-to-face consultation for deployment support issues. MFLCs specializing in the needs of children and youth are also available through the base child and youth facilities.
"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," Vahle said.