Every active duty family should have a care plan in their emergency paperwork, especially before a deployment. The frequent moves can make it challenging to reach out to people for support, but it’s important to take that leap of faith and get to know those in your area; both civilian and military to reap the benefits of having a strong support network during your time in a single location.
Today’s blog is going to touch upon this situation so you don’t find yourself looking to strangers to watch your kids in the event of a family emergency. While it may have to come to that, taking your time and doing your research can give you the peace of mind of knowing you don’t have to worry about that aspect in the middle of a crisis.
There are 5 things you should consider when dealing with a family emergency and it is best to take time to make a plan, rather than waiting until you are in an emergency situation.
Number 1- Keeping an Emergency Fund
This seems like a no-brainer but many families find it difficult to save money for an emergency. I know what it’s like having so little money that you’re forced to use coins you collected as a kid to pay for diapers. BTDT. But, really take time to find a good budget for your family. Many bases and posts are equipped to provide your family with financial counseling. Find out when and where and do it! Having cash on hand will make things feel not so strained during an emergency. An emergency fund should *ideally* be 6 months according to most money gurus. My advice, strive for at least 1 pay period of expenses.
When the time comes to have to use it, put it in smaller checks to be cashed to control the cash-flow. Many banking institutions allow you to write a check directly from your bank account. If your current bank doesn’t do this, consider joining a credit union like USAA, and you will have access to online check writing. Have a budget (food, childcare, travel, etc.). Your normal pay should provide enough coverage for your regular bills and having everything automated is considered wise as well. The more you automate those bills, the better chance that you won’t forget to pay something during the chaos.
Number 2- Have your kids meet and get to know their guardian
Being in the military means that sometimes we are thousands of miles away from family and close friends. Creating strong relationships with those individuals helps calm your children when they have to be cared for by someone other than their parents.
It is important to put your children first when deciding a guardian. Allow them to meet (if possible) and chat online through Skype or some other platform for real-time conversations. This will help them build a trusting relationship with these individuals. And if you’re able (if your children are older), let them help with the search! This will give them some say and make them feel like their opinion matters! Extending that courtesy to them will ease the transition when/if they need to go to a guardian.
Number 3- Get to know your neighbors and find close reliable friends for short-term care
In the military it can be hard to find trustworthy people because you read stories like this one (Silverdale Couple arrested and charged with Child torture case). I never put much trust in people I don’t know and this is one reason why. Being in the military does not make one trustworthy.
Not everyone is bad, but the point is to be on-guard and trust your instincts when meeting new people. When you do finally find some neighbors or friends that you can rely on for short-term care, ask them if it’s okay to use them as a reference for future situations. Try not to wait until you’re in an emergency to ask. If you’re lacking new friends, find some! Attend a church (or 2), MOPS, Scouts, play groups, FRG, spouse groups, etc. to find new friends that you can build a strong, dependable relationship with. If you’re already friends with fellow spouses, then utilize them when you can! Being a member of the FRG or spouse group gives you easy access to instant friends.
Number 4- Medical Power of Attorney
Fill out a Medical Power of Attorney for the prospective guardians. I know I have been able to grant my parents short-term guardianship for my children when I traveled to NYC and I was grateful for this special paperwork to allow my parents to make medical decisions for me in case I was unreachable. I was also able to grant my husband’s aunt the same when I traveled to Singapore during a port visit with the ship. Each of these times it didn’t cost me anything except my time. But I felt good knowing that this paperwork was filled out in case my kids needed medical attention while I was traveling.
Sometimes, this medical form needs to be filled out during pre-deployment workups when you are ill or having health issues that may leave you incapable of caring for your kids. Pregnant women fill out similar paperwork before they have their child. There are too many unexpected variables that cannot be predicted that by having this simple POA filled out can take the guess work out of your family’s preferences.
For some additional information on Medical POA, consider this article by LegalZoom.com
Number 5- Have a Plan B
Don’t settle for just one plan and be done with the planning because Murphy is always lingering around the corner. At the very least have 2 individuals ready to take care of your children for short and long-term situations.
If you need more information, try these articles for additional help on making a family care plan for an emergency:
~Rosemary E. King, SBD is a Birth and Bereavement Doula®, author of How to Hire a Doula, and Reiki Practitioner. Rosemary enjoys reading John Grisham books, going on adventures with her kids, and volunteering with Boy Scouts of America and Girl Scouts of America. The Navy brought her family to the PNW in 2009. Check out her website, www.rosemaryeking.com for additional information.