Adopting in the Military: Benefits and Resources for Adoptive Parents

Adopting in the Military:  Benefits and Resources for Adoptive Parents
There are numerous benefits and resources available to active-duty military and reservists who want to adopt a child. If you are considering adoption, it’s wise to locate the resources available to you before you start the process. There are special circumstances when you are in the military that you should be aware of before you start planning your adoption.

Military Adoption Resources

The military provides housing, a secure income, and medical benefits to active duty families. This is a great foundation for starting a family through adoption. Active-duty military and reservists are also eligible for adoption benefits, including a 21 day non-chargeable leave (after adoption finalization) and an adoption reimbursement program.

If you are ready to start a family through adoption, the military provides adoption resources and an adoption consultant to families. Most military installations have Military Family Support Centers designed to help military families balance their work and personal family life. One of the resources they provide is information and resources for families that are planning to adopt. Contact Military OneSource at 800-342-9647 or visit for more information or a referral to a Military OneSource adoption consultant. This is a first step to take when starting the process of a military adoption.

Financial Aid and Adoption Tax Credit

There are a few ways to receive financial aid when you are adopting and in the military. The IRS allows certain adoption expenses to be claimed as an adoption tax credit. The military also has its own reimbursement program for eligible military families.

Military Adoption Reimbursement Program

Similar to workplace adoption benefits, the military offers adoption leave and an adoption reimbursement program to active-duty military and reservists who have been on active duty for at least 180 consecutive days. Active duty military and reservists are eligible for up to $2,000 (per child per year) of reimbursement for qualified adoption expenses. To qualify for the military adoption reimbursement program, the adoption must take place through a state adoption agency or non-profit adoption center. The military does not reimburse for adoptions that are done through a for-profit agency or cover independent adoptions.

The military covers approved adoption-related expenses, but they do not cover travel expenses. Approved military adoption expenses include:

  • Adoption center and placement fees
  • Counseling for the birth mother
  • Court costs and legal fees
  • Medical and hospital expenses for the birth mother and adopted infant
  • Temporary foster care expenses that are necessary to adopt a child in foster care

Special Needs Adoption Programs Available to Military Families

The military has a Program for Persons with Disabilities that provides assistance to families who have children with special needs and disabilities. If you are adopting a child with special needs, you should qualify for this program and be eligible for up to $1,000 a month in financial assistance.

Another program, the Exceptional Family Member Program (or EMFP) is available to military families who have children with special needs. EMFP provides assistance like referrals to doctors, school programs, and early intervention services for special needs children. If you adopt a child with a disability, the EMFP program will help with any relocations to insure that accommodations are available for your child with special needs.

Adoption Tax Credit

adoption tax credit
If you adopt a child, you are eligible for a tax credit. The amount varies upon the year you adopted; if you adopted in 2018, for example, your tax credit would be $13,810. While this may not cover the entire cost of an adoption, this relieves some of the burden of paying for an adoption.

Adoption expenses must be claimed during the year the child is adopted. If your adoption expenses are greater than your tax liability you can carry your tax credit over to the following year for up to five years. There are some income guidelines for the tax credit. If your income is too high, your tax credit may be subject to a phase-out or could be reduced or eliminated. Only qualified adoption-related expenses can be claimed. These include court costs and legal fees, adoption center fees, travel and lodging expenses related to the adoption, and court-approved birth mother expenses (such as rent, utilities and maternity clothing).

Obstacles When Planning a Military Adoption

The biggest obstacle military families have when planning an adoption is timing. Military families will hope to plan the adoption so that it doesn’t occur during a relocation or deployment. However, military families relocate as frequently as every two years. This can make planning an adoption challenging. It’s best to start the adoption process when you first arrive at your duty station so that it can be completed before you are relocated to another station. Ideally, you want to have everything completed, including your home study, and finalization all while at the same duty station.

There are things you can do if you are deployed or receive orders for a PCS (permanent change of station) while you are in the process of adoption. Depending on where you are at in the process, you may still be able to finalize your adoption without interruption. If you know you are going to be deployed, you can sign a power of attorney granting your spouse permission to complete some of the adoption paperwork. This will not help with home study interviews, though. In order to complete a home study, both parents must complete a personal interview and this can’t be bypassed with a power of attorney. Talk to your social worker as soon as you know about your deployment. If you can, complete any interviews before you deploy. If you are relocating, it may be possible to transfer your home study records over to an agency in your new location. Keep in mind that many agencies have their own policies and forms, so this might not be possible.

If you are close to completing your adoption, talk to your command. A deployment deferment or an extension of your assignment may be possible. Communicate with your Military OneSource adoption counselor during the adoption process to help you plan for issues that might come up.

Adopting a child while in the military requires planning, but there are resources available to help you. Once you and your partner are ready to start the process, talk to an adoption advisor and your Military and Family Support Center to help you get started.