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Family Care Plan: What you need to know

Maj. Linda McCullough, executive officer for the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., celebrates her promotion to major with her family Aug. 7, 2021. As a dual military household, McCullough is required to have a Family Care Plan in place should something happen that requires her and/or her spouse's absence. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman)

Maj. Linda McCullough, executive officer for the 403rd Wing at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., celebrates her promotion to major with her family Aug. 7, 2021. As a dual military household, McCullough is required to have a Family Care Plan in place should something happen that requires her and/or her spouse's absence. (U.S. Air Force graphic by Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman)

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

As any Airman knows, a situation could arise at any time that would require them to leave their homes and their families, whether it be for a short or extended period of time.

In order to ensure an available, ready force, the Air Force encourages and, in some instances, requires Airmen to have a family care plan.

“As a servicemember whose spouse also serves in the military, I value knowing my children are cared for,” said Maj. Linda McCullough, 403rd Wing executive officer. “Should something happen, having an adequate care plan in place relieves the stress and worry of whether they’ll be okay or not.”

According to Master Sgt. Jared Bryant, 403rd Force Support Squadron first sergeant, family care plans are put in place to make sure there is a designated person who, in the event of an Airman’s absence, incapacity, or death, can assume responsibility for that person’s dependents until a court-ordered legal guardian is appointed.

“Single parents and dual military member families with dependents fall into the realm of those required to submit and certify a family care plan annually,” said Bryant. “Also, the commander can deem any unique situation involving a member with dependents as one requiring a plan.”

In addition to those situations, Bryant said other unique situations that require a Family Care Plan are households where the military member’s spouse is not the child’s legal guardian or the member is single and a legal caretaker for someone not their child, such as a parent.

The first step in the process is taking care of Air Force Form 357, which requires the member to assign temporary, short term, and long term custodians. These custodians do not necessarily have to be a biological or adoptive parent, but should have the consent of the dependent’s parent or a memorandum for record explaining the absence of consent.

Additionally, an attachment sheet for each dependent providing any information specific to the child’s needs, such as medications, allergies, favorite blanket, etc., is required.

“Of course it’s important to make sure your chosen custodians are aware that they’re responsible for your dependents should a situation arise,” said Bryant, “but members also need to make sure their dependents’ daycares and/or schools and any other necessary entities are also tracking.”

The other half of the family care plan process is to provide a power of attorney for each custodian unless they already have legal rights to act on the dependent’s behalf.

“To complete this process members can go to the Air Force legal website and fill out a power of attorney worksheet,” said Maj. Jed Wangsgard, 403rd Wing staff judge advocate. “They can choose a general or special power of attorney, depending on what rights they want to allow that person to have. Once the worksheet is complete, they’ll be given a ticket number, which they will need to provide to us in order to complete the process.”

The 403rd Wing’s legal office is available during Unit Training Assembly weekends from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday and 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Sunday.

After proper documentation is completed, all relevant paperwork must be submitted to either the member’s first sergeant or commander for review and approval.

Once the plan is approved, members need only to review the appropriate documents annually to make sure everything is up to date. In the event of a life event such as the birth or adoption of a child, marriage, or divorce, members must resubmit a plan.