In today’s post, I want to discuss Army Family Care Plans. I will give you a basic overview about what they are, how they work, and who needs one. I will also share some additional resources you can read to learn more about them.
What is a Family Care Plan?
It is a plan detailing what a soldier will do with their dependent children if they are deployed, attending military school, attending Annual Training, on TDY or are sent away to perform any type of military duty. The plan will cover who takes care of the children, financial arrangements, and ensure someone is appointed, briefed and prepared to take care of the children, if the soldier is away.
According to AR 600-20 it’s sole purpose is to document for Army purposes the plan by which the soldiers provide for the care of their family members when military duties prevent the soldier from doing so. Please keep in mind that the Army Family Care Plan is not a legal document, nor can it alter or change any custody agreement, court order or child support obligation.
What Information is in the Family Care Plan?
Listed below, you will see what forms and letters are required in each packet.
- DA Form 5305 (Family Care Plan Checklist/Counseling)
- DA Form 5841 (Power of Attorney)
- DA Form 5840 (Certificate of Acceptance as Escort or Guardian)
- DD Form 1172 (DEERS Enrollment)
- DD Form 2558 (Authorization to Start, Change or Stop Allotment)
- A Letter of Instruction to the Guardian or Escort
- DA Form 7666 (Parental Consent from non-military parent)
Soldiers are responsible for gathering this information after they are initially counseled about the requirements. The commander/designated person must verify the documents.
Who Needs a Family Care Plan?
Not all soldiers will need a Family Care Plan. It only pertains to single soldiers with kids, dual military members and parents with custody pursuant to a court order or separation agreement. Married Soldiers with kids and soldiers without kids DO NOT need a Family Care Plan.
Family Care Plan Regulations
There are several regulations governing the Family Care Plan. I recommend you start by reading Chapter 5-5 of AR 600-20. This provides the major information you need to know about these plans and is a great starting point. In addition, you should also read:
- AR 635-200
- AR 135-178
- AR 135-91
- AR 600-8-24
- AR 135-175
- NGR 635-101
Unit Commander Responsibilities
As a Unit Commander in the Army National Guard, Army Reserves or Active Duty Army, you have several responsibilities, which include:
- Conduct the FCP Counselings or appoint someone to do so
- Be the sole approving authority
- May authorize an extension of 30 days for Active Duty Soldiers and 60 days for ARNG and USAR Soldier to complete their plan
- Must review the packet to make sure it is doable, and makes sense
- Must consider soldiers non-deployable until their packets are approved
- Must test the validity of the Family Care Plan by contacting the appointed guardian
- Will provide the soldier with at least 30 days to fix shortcomings in the plan if it was originally disapproved
- Should initiate a Bar to Reenlistment for Soldiers who fail to properly manage their personal affairs
- Should consider initiating involuntary separations for soldiers who do not have an adequate Family Care Plan
- Contact non-military parent (for divorced and single soldiers) to verify the plan with them
- Keep up to date of changes such as marriage, divorce, adoptions, death or disability of spouse, court decrees, assumption of foster care responsibilities, etc.
As you can probably tell, there are lots of responsibilities for the commander. Don’t make the mistake of trying to do everything yourself. If you need to, start a small committee of 3-5 Officers and NCOs to help you manage the plans for your unit.
Tips for Success
Here are some tips for success with managing your unit’s Family Care Plans.
1. Identify all soldiers who require a Family Care Plan
2. Designate an Officer and NCO (or team) to conduct the initial counseling with the soldiers
3. Conduct the initial counseling with the soldiers during drill weekend
4. Follow up during the next two drill weekends to collect the required documents and finalize plans
5. Every 90 days, review the Family Care Plans and interview the soldiers to make sure things in their plan have not changed
6. Spot check every plan in complete detail at least once a year
7. Separate soldiers who do not have an adequate Family Care Plan or don’t manage their plan seriously
As a Unit Commander you are very busy. You cannot delegate your responsibility, but it would be wise to have a team of Officers and NCOs help you with this time consuming task. If I could redo my command time again, I would have placed more emphasis on these plans. They are important for the morale and readiness of your unit.
Final Thoughts about Family Care Plans
As a former company commander, I can tell you that Family Care Plans are very time consuming. In a unit of 120 Soldiers, you might have 10-30 Soldiers who require a plan. I think it’s best to have a team of Officers and NCOs help you with the counseling and completing/reviewing the packets. I also believe that commanders should make it a top priority to make sure the plans are current, accurate and complete. And I also believe they should separate soldiers who do not or cannot keep a plan up to date.
On a side note, I would love to hear from you. If you have experience with Family Care Plans, please share your expertise or thoughts with the rest of our community by leaving a comment to this post. Also, if you have any questions regarding the Family Care Plan, feel free to ask and we will do our best to provide an answer.