Family care plans help Marines care for loved ones

13 Apr 2010 | Sgt. Jacob H. Harrer

Having dependents is a huge responsibility, especially for active duty Marines. Although most parents take care of their children’s everyday needs, it is easy to neglect emergency planning. As a Marine, duty calls in many forms, including combat deployments and training courses, which inevitably take parents away from their children and disrupt everyday routines.

In order to help families cope with military duties, the Department of Defense has implemented the family care plan program to assist commanders and their service members with preparing for the unexpected. A family care plan is a detailed packet of information that enables your dependents to receive the best possible care when you are called away. Life is full of unexpected twists and turns, so every Marine should plan for the worst.

“A family care plan really drives home the point of being prepared when a disaster strikes, having a smooth plan in place to take care of your loves ones,” said Christianne Witten, LifeSkills and Readiness and Deployment Support Trainer at Henderson Hall, Va. “It’s stressful already dealing with deployments and assignments, so we want to take stress away from Marines and take care of their needs.”

All single parents, dual-military parents, and service members whose spouses may be unable to take care of their dependents are required to have a family care plan on file with their command. The policy was a response to deficiencies during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, in which the Department of Defense found that many single parents and dual military couples were not ready to deploy because they did not have plans for the care of their children. Since then, the modern family care plan program was implemented to ensure all servicemembers remain deployable worldwide.

A family care plan is composed of vital information, including legal, financial, logistical, and medical documents. It ensures your designated care providers have access to the money and resources needed to care for your dependents while you are away. With a power of attorney, loved ones can resolve any business issues you may need them to take care of.

Regardless of how secure you feel your situation is, you should have a family care plan to assist your spouse and children in case of emergencies. Witten married a Marine officer and lived in Okinawa for her first tour as a Marine spouse. There, she made friends with another wife, who was pregnant with twins while her husband was deployed. Her pregnancy became complicated, and she needed to fly her mother in from the states to help her take care of her one year old son. Along the way, she had to figure out how to get her mother a passport, base access, and an Okinawa driver’s license.

Situations like this can arise during deployments. Without a family care plan, it would be much more difficult for you and your spouse to take care of business if either of you becomes sick or injured.

“We don’t like to think about those things, but there’s a risk you take every day, and so it’s really important to have a plan in place,” Witten added.

If you are interested in starting a family care plan, please contact the Marine Barracks Washington family readiness officer, Steve Norton, at (202) 433-4881.