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Family care plans ease deployment stress

Reserve Citizen Airmen, from the 932nd Airlift Wing, are joined by family and friends to honor all fallen warriors during the Belleville Memorial Day Parade, May 27, 2019, Belleville, Illinois. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Parr)

Reserve Citizen Airmen, from the 932nd Airlift Wing, are joined by family and friends to honor all fallen warriors during the Belleville Memorial Day Parade, May 27, 2019, Belleville, Illinois. (U.S. Air Force photo by Christopher Parr)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

Deployments can be stressful, not only for the service members but for their families also.

One way to help reduce that stress is knowing your family is taken care of while you are away from home. Are you ready? Is your family ready? Who will take care of your children, are they ready and equipped with what they need?

A family care plan can help answer some of these questions and help reduce your stress.

“Knowing that my child was taken care of helped with the stress of deploying,” said Tech. Sgt. Krekel Eckland, an air transportation specialist with the 41st Aerial Port Squadron and a single father with no local family that was tasked for a deployment.

His solution for child care arrangements was to have his daughter’s babysitter stay with his child during his six-month deployment.

“In my case, I knew my daughter was at home in good hands because I had my caregiver stay in my house,” said Eckland. “While not being there was hard, I knew that my daughter’s routine wasn’t changed, which was important to me.”

Any extended separation of Airmen from their family is something that Reserve Citizen Airmen should be prepared for and having a plan in place will ease some of that burden.

Maj. Jedediah Wangsgard, the deputy staff judge advocate of the 403rd Wing, said, “Being prepared for a deployment, whether you go or not, is an important part of making sure our Airmen are taken care of and ready, whether they are away from home training or on a deployment.”

The family care plan is set up to provide a caregiver for a service member’s dependents. With a specific power of attorney, this designee is given the authorization to act in 'loco parentis,' or on the parents' behalf, for the child(ren)'s needs regarding child care, education and medical care, said Wangsgard.

It is important to note that single parents, dual military couples with family members, members with civilian spouses who have unique family situations, and also civilian and contractor personnel in emergency essential positions must complete the family care plan form: Air Force Form 357, according to Air Force Instruction 36-2908, and all Air Force members with families must make arrangements that reasonably cover all situations.

The AF Form 357 requires members to designate a temporary custodian, a short-term caregiver, and a long-term caregiver. For those service members assigned outside of the continental United States, a special caregiver for non-military escort is required.

The designation of a temporary custodian is an important aspect of the plan in the event of the member's death or incapacity. The temporary custodian must live locally to the service member and assumes temporary custody of the child(ren) until a legal guardian is appointed or the execution of the individual's will is completed.

Wangsgard said that having a detailed family care plan ensures the child goes to the caregiver of choice, and having multiple back-ups prevents unexpected problems; but to remember that the family care plan doesn't affect a custody agreement, and the member must work with their ex-spouse to determine what is best.

The legal office recommends having an up-to-date will and special powers of attorney on file in the event of a no-notice deployment. Also, the member’s first sergeant is required to maintain a copy of all family care plans and the member is required to recertify their family care plan annually.

Important things to keep in mind when preparing a family care plan:

· Assign a guardian for your family in a special Power of Attorney and make sure the guardian understands his/her responsibilities.

· Obtain dependent identification, register in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS), and check to make sure all ID cards have not expired.

· Sign up for Servicemembers Group Life Insurance (SGLI) 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.

· Prepare a will and designate a guardian in the will.

· Arrange for necessary travel and escort to transfer family members to their guardian.

· Discuss your plans with your older children.

 “Having this plan already in place helped ease my stress and gave me peace of mind during the deployment,” said Eckland. “I also made it home to be there for her first day of her new school year.”

For more information regarding family care plans, Airmen must contact their unit first sergeant.