Your heart is open to having a child in your lives or adding to your family. You’ve talked about it and agreed that adoption is the route you want to take. Arm yourself with information before you even call an adoption agency. There is a lot to learn about the adoption process. Search out other military families in your community who have adopted. Ask lots of questions:
- Should we try a domestic or foreign adoption?
- What agency or law firm did you use? Who should we avoid?
- What did it cost?
- What would you have done differently or smarter?
Your installation family center might know about an adoption support group on your installation or in the community outside the gate. You’ll be surprised once you start asking how many families have adopted. While you are at the center, ask where new parent support classes are provided. You may be able to use these classes as part of your training once you are in the process. Also check with the chaplain’s office, your own church, or the legal assistance office to see if they have a list of local resources for adoption.
Read up on the adoption process. A good overall background can be obtained at the Child Welfare Information Gateway. This site, run by the Department of Health and Human Services, provides non-biased information about the process, different types of adoption, different agencies, and a glossary of terms. Another helpful resource is a publication from the Children’s Bureau and AdoptUSKids.
Military Adoption Benefits for Active Duty Families Include:
- Up to $2,000 reimbursement for adoption expenses
- Up to 21 days of adoption leave to bond with your new child
- Health care benefits before the adoption is final
Military service members who adopt a child under 18 years of age, including step-children, may be reimbursed for qualified adoption expenses up to $2,000 per adoptive child (up to a total of $5,000 if more than one child is adopted) per calendar year. In the case of a dual military couple, only one member may claim expenses for each adopted child.
Expenses incurred through the adoption of a service member’s children by a non-service connected step-parent do not qualify for reimbursement.
To claim reimbursement for an adoption, be sure to submit a DD Form 2675 no later than one year after the adoption is final.
The service member must be on active duty when filing for the reimbursement. You cannot get paid twice for the same expense by different programs. A separate form must be submitted for each child adopted. If you have questions as you are completing the form, you can email the Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) office in charge of reimbursement at CCL-Adoptionfirstname.lastname@example.org.
Veterans with service-connected infertility are also eligible to receive reimbursement of adoption expenses. The reimbursement rates and covered expenses are the same as those offered to active duty families. The application for reimbursement must be submitted no later than two years after the adoption is finalized. For more information, visit the VA’s website.
Each branch of service has its own policies and regulations covering parental leave. The Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force and Coast Guard have established three categories of parental leave: convalescent maternity leave, for service members who give birth; primary caregiver leave; and secondary caregiver leave. When adopting a child, service members can designate one parent as the primary caregiver, who is authorized up to six weeks of non-chargeable leave. The secondary caregiver may take up to fourteen days of non-chargeable leave (21 days for members of the Air Force.) Primary and secondary caregiver leave may be taken at any time within one year of the child’s adoption.
As of June 25, 2018, the Army has not updated its parental leave policy. Currently Soldiers are permitted up to 21 days of non-chargeable leave, in addition to regular leave, to be used in connection with an adoption. For dual Army couples who adopt a child in a qualifying child adoption, only one service member is allowed parental leave.
As with any leave, this is granted at the discretion of the commander. Only service members who are eligible for reimbursement of adoption expenses are eligible for this leave.
Children under the age of 18 placed in the home of a service member by a placement agency for adoption are considered dependents. With a court order for the placement, an adopted child may be eligible for military health benefits. Having the regulation in hand when visiting the DEERS enrollment office may help with personnel who may be unfamiliar with the regulation. The ID regulations for each of the Services are included in one document, though each Service gives it a different title:
- Air Force – Air Force Instruction 36-3026(I)
- Army – Army Regulation 600-8-14
- Navy – BUPERS Instruction 1750.10B
- Marine Corps – Marine Corps Order P5512.11C
- Coast Guard – Commandant Instruction M5512.1
- Public Health Service – Commissioned Corps Personnel Manual 29.2, Instructions 1 & 2
- NOAA Corps – NOAA Corps Regulations, Chapter 1, Part 4
The pertinent regulations for the placement of pre-adoptive children are found on pages 75 through 77.