TWR Articles
Foster Care and the Military
March 24, 2017 | By Together We Rise- Kimberly Plum

Are you a military family that is considering foster care or adoption?

Just because you or your spouse is a serviceperson, you are not restricted from either fostering or adopting! A common myth is that military families are not able to foster or adopt children. Although sometimes military families relocate, there are many opportunities for families to foster or adopt while enlisted.

Military families across the United States are interested in using their resources to help children in need. Just because a family member is enlisted, they are not exempt from fostering or adopting. Parents who wish to foster while living on a military base or while enlisted go through the same processes as any other foster parents would. Depending on their job within the military, that will decide whether or not they are prone to relocations or deployments. To make things easier, most military families are asked to make sure they will be unmoved for about a year before fostering. But, like any other foster parent, if there are any emergencies and the parents can no long foster the child(ren), accommodations will be made.

Like civilian parents, military parents are able to adopt as well. Adoption is an option even if the family is stationed overseas! The processes work similar to civilian adoptions, but can be more difficult if the family is relocated or a member is deployed. 

But, there are many benefits to adopting while enlisted!

  1. $2,000-5,000 adoption reimbursement

  2. Eligibility for medical coverage

  3. 21 days of adoption leave

 For more information on the foster and adoption processes, visit http://www.militaryfamily.org/.



Are you in foster care and considering joining the military? If so, there are many benefits to do so as former youth in care!

Aging out of the foster care system is usually not an easy transition. Most youth ages 18-21 exit the system without any support, housing, or family. Like many others who consider the military after graduating high school, it is also a great option for youth who are aging out of the system. Given housing, room and board, a job, and even education, the military can be a great resource for youth in foster care who are looking for stability and purpose.

Like any 18 year old in the United States, former youth in care are given enlistment opportunities as soon as they turn 17 years old. But one issue they face is if they are under 18 years old, their enlistment process must be approved by the courts. In most cases this process is successful, but in the case of Shawn Sage (CA), his request to enter the delayed entry program (DEP) was denied by a judge. Instead of being discouraged, he took action and reached out to an assembly person in his city to create a bill that will allow youth in care to be evaluated for the military by their foster parents and social workers, not a judge. In Shawn’s case, he had been with the same foster parent and social worker for many years, so he felt that the support system around him would know better than a judge. Although he was 18 and able to enlist without approval by the time the bill was introduced, Sage tried to change the enlistment process for many youth in care to come. He recognized the benefits of joining the military and eventually joined as former youth in care.

For Dr. Jamie Schwandt, he credits his time in foster care for preparing him for the military. As a 16 years reservist and 9 years active duty member, Schwandt wrote his book, Succeeding as a Foster Child: A Roadmap to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Success, on how children in foster care can overcome difficulties and obstacles to achieve success. He now travels around the country speaking to children in care across the US, and informs youth on how his time in care helped him in his success in the military.

In an interview with Foster Focus Magazine, he tells writer Capri Cruz a few reasons why the military is an option for youth who are aging out of the system.

  1. “Being comfortable with the uncomfortable”- Schwandt explains that like children in care, military personnel are sometimes expected to move around very suddenly. Whether their orders are changing or they are being deployed, service members are expected to transition if necessary. He says coming from foster care, he was “trained” in many different settings, and had little trouble traveling as an adult serving his country.

  2. “Adapt, persist, and recover”- Along with expecting the unexpected, children in care have to be adaptable and sometimes self sufficient. He argues that if they are able to adapt and persist, recovery is attainable.

  3. Resiliency- Schwandt tells Cruz that his hard times in the foster care system made him a resilient adult. The harsh times he went through in the system prepared him for the harsh realities of the military- including death. As a young child he experienced the death of a parent, and because of that experience, was able to cope and persist when he faced it again in the military.

  4. Family- Through both the foster care system and the military, Schwandt has come to realize that family is not always who you share your DNA with, but those who love and support you. When he was a child of the system he was eventually placed with a loving and supportive family that cared for his safety and development. In the military, he found the same traits in other service members.

  5. Leadership and Discipline- Not only does foster care require some self determination, but sometimes requires a sense of responsibility over others. Some children in care are expected to raise their siblings or act as leader of the household. When Schwandt joined the Army he quickly learned this of the military as well.

As former youth in care, Dr. Schwandt ends by pointing out the benefits of joining the military. Because of his service, he was able to activate his GI Bill benefits and earn his PhD. He has medical benefits, retirement savings, and has had the opportunities to travel the world and experience diverse cultures. Most importantly, he wants children in care to know that he has had the same opportunities as any other service member. Schwandt wants children in care to know that in many instances, they are not given the same opportunities as other children, but through the military he was given a chance and was recognized for his potential. Unlike many other former youth in care, he was seen for his resiliency and persistence, and treated equally amongst his peers.

To listen to the full interview, visit: http://www.fosterfocusmag.com/articles/advocacy-army-one.



References:

Schwandt, Jamie, Dr. "An Advocacy Army of One." Interview by Capri Cruz. Foster Focus. Foster Focus Magazine, n.d. Web.

United States. Department of Health and Human Services. Child Welfare. Joining the Military: A Guide to Assist Youth in Foster Care. N.p., n.d. Web.

 

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