Most military families with children are not prepared for the unexpected. We think we are prepared because we’ve handled no-notice deployments, sudden PCSes, and/or spur of the moment TDYs. But, if you do not have a Family Care Plan, then you are not as prepared as you should be. Let me be honest- at the moment, my family does not have one, but I will be changing that soon.
What is a Family Care Plan?
The military requires service members that are single parents or mil-to-mil parents to have a document called a Family Care Plan which outlines in detail who will care for their children in an emergency. They do not require one for military members who have children with a spouse not connected to the military.
When I worked at the Airman and Family Readiness Center at RAF Mildenhall, we used to recommend all families prepare a Family Care Plan before a member deploys. I am now going to go one step further and say that if you have children, you should have a Family Care Plan even if your spouse does not have a deployment looming in the near future.
Why do you need a Family Care Plan?
The idea behind a Family Care Plan is to designate who will take care of your children in an emergency situation where both parents are unable to do so. If my husband were not in the military, we would be living near family and they would be called first in the event of an emergency. We live far from family and have not lived in one place for more than 2 years since having children, which complicates trusting someone to care for our children.
In December, Science Kid, Word Boy, and I all came down with the flu while my husband was TDY. I was very sick and very weak. It brought to light the need for our family to have a Family Care Plan, even though my husband is not likely to deploy from his current job.
When he left, both boys were perfectly healthy, and I was feeling sick, but thought it was just a sinus infection. When Word Boy became sick, I struggled to get him to the doctor while battling chills, fatigue, headaches, shaking, and coughing. One quick swab confirmed he had the flu, and the pediatrician took one look at me and said he likely caught it from me. It was the most sick I have felt and I worried about what would happen if I needed to be hospitalized.
If our family had a Family Care Plan, this would all have been outlined already. Feeling as sick as I was, I was having difficulty trying to problem solve to think who could care for my children if my condition got worse. Thankfully, I made it through to the weekend when my husband came home and took over child care so I could rest.
What should go into a Family Care Plan?
First, you need the names and contact information of someone who can care for your children in an emergency. I would list two or three options. I would also list the name and contact information of family or friends that might be willing to travel to you in the case of care being needed for more than a couple of days.
In our situation, we have two children with special needs, so I would list contact information for therapists, as well as some information as how to deal with Science Kid and Word Boy in the event either might have a meltdown. I found an excellent resource on Family Care Plans at Military One Source, definitely worth a book mark.