Transitioning to a People First Army requires a different view on Family Care Plans. The Army Family Care Plan should help support Soldiers with their household responsibilities while conducting their daily operations with their units.
However, Family Care Plans are incredibly nuanced and sometimes are mismanaged at the leader level. So, it’s essential to talk about what the Army Family Care Plan is, who it is for, and how properly managing a plan can create a People First Army.
I have to set the expectation for this post. This post isn’t a step-by-step on how to do a Family Care Plan. Each situation is different and subject to varying degrees of difficulty. Even the regulation provides highly descriptive guidance on specific cases.
So instead, I’ll provide the forms and regulations for you to choose what you need to complete a Family Care Plan. Also, I’ll give a few perspectives of my own regarding Family Care Plans toward the end of the post.
What Does the Regulation Say?
What is the Family Care Plan?
The regulation for guidance on Family Care Plans is AR 600-20 (Army Command Policy). The first line of the Family Care Plan section talks about a Commander’s responsibility to readiness. Commanders must do everything they can to ensure their unit is ready for deployment. Part of that readiness is Soldier deployability.
Since many Soldiers have families, the unit is also responsible for supporting the Soldier in making decisions that impact the livelihoods of their loved ones. So, commanders have an obligation to readiness, and that includes family readiness.
The Family Care Plan should help Soldiers find solutions to taking care of dependents while on military duties. Soldiers have varied needs, and their families deserve the best possible care while the Soldier is away.
As such, Commanders and the chain of command must support Soldiers and their decisions in how best to take care of their families to perform military duties.
Who Needs A Family Care Plan?
According to AR 600-20 Section 5-3 on page 49, these Soldiers are required to have a Family Care Plan:
– Dual-military couples with dependents (usually children)
– Single Parents
– Soldiers with custody or joint custody over children or other familial dependents
There are other situations as well, but these are the most common.
Forms Associated with the Family Care Plan
These are the forms associated with Family Care Plans. Each plan is different, but these were the forms listed in AR 600-20. Use as needed:
DA Form 5304 (Family Care Plan Counseling Checklist)
DA Form 5305 (Family Care Plan)
DA Form 5840 (Certificate of Acceptance as Guardian or Escort)
DA Form 5841 (Power of Attorney)
DA Form 7666 (Parental Consent)
DD Form 1172-2 (Application of Identification Card/DEERS Enrollment)
DD Form 2558 (Authorization to Start, Stop, or Change an Allotment)
Regulations Associated with the Family Care Plan
AR 600-20 was very descriptive in some situations. It listed several regulations distinguishing between active Army Soldiers and Reserve/Guard Soldiers, and between Officers and Enlisted personnel. Regardless, I encourage you to look at AR 600-20 for further guidance on your situation. But, here are all of the manuals associated with the Family Care Plan:
AR 135-175 (Separation of Officers, 2020)
AR 135-178 (Enlisted Administrative Separations, 2017)
AR 600-8-10 (Leaves and Passes, 2020)
AR 600-8-24 (Officer Transfers and Discharges, 2020)
AR 600-20 (Army Command Policy, 2020)
AR 608-10 (Child Development Services, 2017)
AR 608-75 (Exceptional Family Member Program, 2017)
AR 614-30 (Overseas Service, 2016)
AR 635-200 (Active Duty Enlisted Administrative Separations, 2016)
Department of Defense Instruction Associated with the Family Care Plan
DODI 1342.19 (Executive Services Directorate)
I pulled all of these regulations from the Family Care Plan section of AR 600-20 Army Command policy. If you have further questions, consult the manual and cntl+f (find) the regulation you’re looking for, along with the section.
Activating a Family Care Plan
When Should Soldiers Activate Their Plans?
Here’s what AR 600-20 says: “Soldiers are responsible for implementing the Family care plan and thus ensuring the care of their Family members. When operational or security considerations prevent them from implementing the plan, it will be used by appropriate military or civilian authorities to obtain care for such Family members.”
Unfortunately, it depends on the situation. As I said before, leaders must understand that Family Care Plans are highly tailored to the Soldier and require planning to execute.
So, know that a Solider with a Family Care Plan oftentimes cannot fill a last-minute staff duty or CQ shift. They need time to execute their plans according to the agreement made between the Soldier and the Commander.
Commanders should help Soldiers make Family Care Plans that revolve around the Soldier’s best interests. Thankfully, leaders have flexibility in working with their units, especially their Soldiers with Family Care Plans. Find ways to work with the Soldier’s needs.
Revising Family Care Plans
Soldiers should routinely review their plans with their leaders to ensure they are in line with fulfilling family responsibilities and military duties. Revise and check as often as necessary, but do not handwave a Family Care Plan.
Putting one together just because the Soldier fits the requirement does not help the Soldier or the unit. Instead, it causes frustration because there will inevitably be mismatched expectations of when Soldiers should implement their Family Care Plans.
There’s A Balance
Like all professionals, Soldiers also have an obligation to their jobs. The Family Care Plan is supposed to support the Soldier’s home life to concentrate on military duties. However, that becomes more complicated with last-minute tasks.
Don’t expect Soldiers to implement their Family Care Plans immediately. Again: Family Care Plans require planning and time to execute. So, that last-minute staff duty shift must go to someone else. Also, don’t expect a Soldier to attend a last-minute school that takes them away from their family for a few days or longer.
As leaders, you must plan to ensure these Soldiers have predictability. Also, plan contingencies in case family emergencies arise. So, that one Soldier you have for ammo detail and a Family Care Plan needs to have another person qualified on ammo to cover those duties.
Should Everyone With Dependents Have A Family Care Plan?
Interestingly, AR 600-20 encourages everyone with dependents to have a Family Care Plan: “All married Soldiers who have Family members are encouraged to complete and maintain a Family care plan, even if not specifically required to do so by this regulation. To do so assists the spouse, Commander, rear detachment commander, Family assistance center, or next of kin providing care for dependent Family members in the event the spouse is injured, ill, incapacitated, or otherwise unable to provide care for the dependent Family member. Counseling of such is also encouraged.” (AR 600-20, p52 section i)
Leaders must understand that one-time emergencies happen that require the Soldier’s attention at home. In addition, Soldiers are always handling issues, and support from the chain of command is essential to making the Soldier successful.
A good rule of thumb is to always keep the Soldier’s interests in mind. If you have Soldiers who do not fit the ‘requirement’ for a Family Care Plan but still have family issues that keep them away from work, it might be good to ask about supporting their decision to create a Family Care Plan. Offer that option to them if they need it.
Keep in mind; Family Care Plans should not be tools to scare Soldiers out of the military. Commanders can involuntarily chapter Soldiers out of the Army for these, but they’re not supposed to punish Soldiers for having family issues.
However, Commanders should not force the Soldiers to implement their Family Care Plans just because it makes the Commander look better. Instead, the Commander must understand the Soldier’s needs and adjust accordingly.
Properly implementing Family Care Plans are essential to creating a People First Army. Remember, spouses and family members of Soldiers are just as crucial as the Soldiers themselves. Ensuring their care can make all the difference in creating a ready and deployable fighting force.
Have you had to have a Family Care Plan? What are your experiences with executing your plan? I hope this post helped you create a People First Army in your unit. Thanks for reading!
Featured Image: George Pak