Family Care Plan

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Lauren Padden
  • 509th Bomb Wing Public Affairs
You're deployed, you granted your mother custody of your child and she has a heart attack. Your first sergeant calls your alternate care giver listed on your family care plan only to discover they are on vacation. His only option left is to call social services to care for the child until temporary custody can be resolved.

This scenario may seem exaggerated, but according to Air Force Global Strike Command's Master Sgt. Keith Krebs, 509th Medical Operations Squadron first sergeant, this actually happened to one of his troops.

If the military member doesn't have an AF Form 357 Family Care Certification, commonly known as a Family Care Plan on file the first sergeant has no other option but to call social services to care for the child until the nearest relative is notified.

According to Air Force Instruction 36-2908, all Air Force members with families must have family care arrangements that reasonably cover all situations. Specifically, single parents, dual military couples with family members, members with civilian spouses who have unique family situations (as determined by the commander or first sergeant), and civilian and contractor personnel in emergency essential positions must complete an AF Form 357.

The Air Force Form 357 requires the member to designate both a short-term and a long-term caregiver in the event of a recall, temporary duty assignment, or a deployed duration exceeding a short-term caregiver's allotted period of time.

"The hardest to fill blocks on the form are five (short term caregiver) and eight (temporary custody designee), as they have to be someone within the local area," said Sergeant Krebs. "This can be especially difficult when you have just arrived on station."

Once on a new station, military personnel are encouraged to find more people they are comfortable with and are recommended to add additional temporary caregivers said Sergeant Krebs.

"I can't stress enough the importance of having at least four different caregivers on the Air Force Form 357," said Sergeant Krebs. "I have seen perfectly filled out plans fall apart as the caregivers go TDY, on vacation, or are sick. The more people you have specified, the more likely the child is to be placed."

Having a detailed Family Care Plan ensures the child goes to the caregiver of choice, and having multiple back-ups prevents unexpected hiccups.

"The more detailed, the more successful," said Sergeant Krebs. "Most military members think it's a hassle," Sergeant Krebs said. "If something happens and you die, you want your child to go to someone you trust. Any first sergeant would dread the day they send a child to foster care."
Another overlooked section of the form is on page three, which is a blank continuation page according to Sergeant Krebs.

"The information on page three can mean life or death," said Sergeant Krebs. "Special details such as your child's allergies, medications, or even their special blanket to get the child to sleep may not be known to the temporary caregiver."

Having such information on page three can be the difference in a smooth transition from parent to caregiver.

However, filling out page three with the birth of a child doesn't mean your family care plan is complete. With your child changing every day the parent should update page three as they see fit to maintain the current information on the child.

Therefore, each member is required to recertify their Family Care Plan annually and every first sergeant reviews the forms quarterly according to the first sergeant.

Not only should the plan be completed and be on file with the member's first sergeant, but 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.

509th Bomb Wing assistant staff judge advocate, 1st Lieutenant Tyler Musselman recommends a special power of attorney called 'in loco parentis' (in the place of a parent), which allows the military member to grant temporary guardianship to a person of their choosing.

Having this special power of attorney also allows your caregiver, if not holding a military identification card, to receive a commissary and base exchange access card from the military personnel section. The caregiver can also gain access to base by sponsorship of the dependent.

According to Airman 1st Class Bobby Brooks, 509th Force Support Squadron force management representative, the military member, or the guardian, can request the commissary/exchange entry/purchase authorization card, which is authorized in accordance with Whiteman Air Force Base Instruction 34-12.

"They would bring in a copy of the TDY orders of the military member, the power of attorney, which names the guardian, copies of the children's ID cards and a copy of the photo identification card of the guardian," said Airman Brooks.

To ensure a smooth process at the visitor control center, Richard Coey, Chenega Security visitor control center lead, recommends the power of attorney as a way for the guardian to easily prove they are allowed to conduct business on base with and for the child.

Finally, Sergeant Krebs points out the Family Care Plan form will cover servicemembers for everyday life events as well.

"You and your spouse could be out for a date night and die in a car accident, or you could be shoveling snow and have a heart attack, or hit ice and swerve off the road," said Sergeant Krebs. "As military members we aren't average citizens living blocks away from Mom and Dad in case we need help, which is why the family care plan is so crucial."

For more information regarding family care plans contact your unit first sergeant.