Family Care Plan Sustains Unit Readiness
Soldiers of the Georgia National Guard's 3rd Infantry Division Main Command Post Operational Detachment are greeted by family and friends during a welcome home ceremony held at Fort Stewart on April 11, 2018. When Soldiers must be away from their families due to military requirements, a Family Care Plan can help ensure those family members are taken care of in their absence. (Photo by Georgia National Guard Sgt. Shye Wilborn) (Photo Credit: Courtesy) VIEW ORIGINAL

FORT STEWART, Ga. – As a part of America’s Contingency Response Force, 3rd Infantry Division is constantly working to perfect the ability to rapidly surge combat-ready forces at a moment's notice in support of allies around the world and defeat all enemies, regardless of the threats they pose. While Soldiers prepare themselves through training for an ever-changing operational tempo, it’s important that they ensure their most important asset, their Families, have an adaptable plan for when duty calls.

A Family Care Plan (FCP) is a method by which the Army ensures a Soldier’s Family is taken care of when the Soldier is absent due to military requirements. According to AR 600-20, in the Soldier’s FCP, he or she will appoint a guardian for the Family member to act in the Soldier’s place while he or she is unavailable.

A Family member is considered a child under the age of 19 or any other Family member who is incapable of self-care and dependent on the sponsor for total support and/or care. A guardian is a person appointed by the Soldier to take care of the Family member’s health, safety, and welfare when the Soldier is unable to do so.

The Soldier should discuss with the guardian all responsibilities, rights, and entitlements the Family member is entitled to. The guardian is not entitled to access military facilities, obtain military services or use other military benefits for personal use, unless they are otherwise entitled to do so due to status as a current service member, military retiree, and so forth. However, these resources remain available for a Soldier’s dependents.

A FCP is many things, however, it is not a legal document that can change an existing court order regarding custody, nor can a FCP interfere with a natural parent’s right over custody of their child. Soldiers should complete their FCP taking into account any existing custody arrangements. If a Soldier’s selections on his or her FCP conflict with an existing court order or names someone other than the child’s natural parent as the guardian, that Soldier should contact the Fort Stewart Legal Assistance Office.

Generally, all Soldiers who have dependents and are either single or part of a dual-military couple must have a FCP. The requirement for a FCP applies to both active and reserve component Soldiers, regardless of grade. AR 600-20, chapter 5-3, lists the specific categories of Soldiers for whom a FCP is mandatory. A FCP also can benefit other Soldiers besides those specifically outlined in AR 600-20. Although not required to do so, all married Soldiers who have Family members as well as Emergency-Essential DA Civilians are encouraged to prepare a FCP.

FCPs are approved by the Soldier’s commander and kept on file with their unit. Depending on a Soldier’s situation, there are either one or two steps to completing a FCP, and timing requirements vary. If the Soldier is not required to have a FCP, but wishes to put one into place, they may do so at any time.

“In order to set up my Family care plan, I had to have a meeting with my commander,” said Sgt. Javiera Scott, a public affairs mass communication specialist assigned to the 50th Public Affairs Detachment, who has experience using a FCP. “The very first meeting is just a counseling statement making him and I aware that we need to do a family care plan due to the fact that I fall into one of the categories that requires one.”

If a Soldier is required to have a FCP, the Soldier will be counseled using DA Form 5304 as soon as possible, then a DA Form 5305 must be completed and approved within 30 days of being counseled.

It is the Soldier’s responsibility to implement a FCP and ensure their Family members are taken care of when the Soldier is unavailable. Should a Soldier’s parental responsibilities interfere with their service obligations, they will be counseled on voluntary and involuntary separation procedures. This applies to both officers and enlisted personnel.

Depending on the Soldier’s circumstances, the documents needed to have a complete FCP packet will vary, however, a FCP packet that has adequate arrangements for a Soldier’s family members includes a DA Form 5305, Power of Attorney for Guardianship, Certificate of Acceptance as Guardian or Escort, Application for Identification Card/DEERS Enrollment, Authorization to Stop, Start, or Change Allotment, Family Care Plan Preliminary Screening, copies of any child custody order or marital separation agreements, and parental consent.

“The benefits of a FCP are security and stability for your dependents, and peace of mind for yourself knowing that they will be cared for in the event your military requirements keep you away from home for some time, whether it be training or deployments,” said Scott.

For additional information regarding a FCP, a Soldier may contact his or her unit’s commander. Soldiers may also schedule an appointment with the Fort Stewart Legal Assistance Office.