Written by Lisa Johnson, Family Support Services Program Manager
November is National Adoption Month, an initiative uniting partnerships between federal, state and local agencies. This year’s focus is providing information and tools to increase adoption among older youth currently in foster care. The National Adoption Month website provides powerful stories to share, along with resources and tools for families considering adoption. There are thousands of older youth currently in foster care waiting for adoption. Many of these youths are less likely to find permanent homes and will age out of the foster care system to face independence without any secure, lifelong connections.
It has become an annual tradition and we’re again highlighting some remarkable Coast Guard families who have opened their hearts and homes to adopt a child or in several instances, multiple children.
“My wife and I welcomed our son into the world August of 2014. After years of yearning to be parents, our hope and dreams were fulfilled through adoption. We are tremendously blessed to say the least and we couldn’t imagine our lives without our little guy. We are forever thankful for his life and the opportunity that has been given to us to be a part of it.”
“We brought Sambhav (Sam-bull) home in April of this year. It was a long and arduous process but worth all the time and effort! When we tell people our story of how we came to adopt Sambhav, they usually reply in some fashion how he’s a lucky boy. But the truth is we are the ones that are blessed! He has been the perfect addition to our family and such a testament to God’s perfect plan for our lives.”
“Tonya and I had three biological children and planned on more until I went to sea again. By the time we had finished that tour and settled in a new job in a new state, it was four years later and our faith led us to consider adoption. We were surprised at the number of children who need a home and particularly surprised to find how hard it is for children with special needs to find a home. In the last six years we’ve adopted three children, one domestic and two from China, all with special physical or developmental needs. They are awesome! The biggest impacts to our family have been the 21-day adoption leave, which allowed us to travel to complete the adoptions, the civilian and military health care providers which have made it easy to navigate a number of specialists and hospital stays, and the support of the commands and shipmates who have shared in our story.”
“I have had my stepson – now adopted son – since he was 6-months-old. Once I got married to my wife and had my stepson in our home we looked into adoption. The only way we thought we could make this happen was if we saved up money or borrowed from our family. On April 14, 2016 after him living with me for almost 5 years, we finally adopted him. If the Coast guard had not provided the money to pay back all our legal fees we would have spent about $2700. The adoption reimbursement was such a huge blessing and so easy to use. We are forever grateful!”
“We adopted our son Eli in January of last year. He has brought our family unimaginable joy since day one. We adopted him with the help of an adoption attorney and have been happy to share the process and experience with many other Coast Guard members. Adoption has been the most rewarding experience we’ve ever had!”
“On June 3, 2015, the adoption of my three beautiful children Austie, Colbie, and Crosby became official. At the time of their births, the states of Virginia and Pennsylvania did not allow same sex adoptions and Virginia did not even recognize our marriage. Because of this, my wife (Hilary Wagar, right) had full custody rights to the children and I was labeled as their step-parent in the military system, even though the twins Colbie and Crosby are biologically my own, but Hilary is their actual birth mother. Pennsylvania changed their same sex adoption law and I quickly petitioned to adopt all three of them, which has ultimately afforded my family the same rights, benefits, and protections as all Coast Guard families. We are now living a life of adventure stationed in Honolulu, HI. Aloha!”
“We have two sons that were adopted from South Korea. Will was adopted in 2009 and his new little brother, Max, came home in October 2015. Max was a waiting child and was 3 1/2 years old when we adopted him. Older child adoption has been an amazing experience and one that has gone better than we ever expected. Over the years, we have fully embraced the Korean culture (food, language, etc) which really helped our youngest son acclimate to his new home. Max has been a complete joy and is the missing piece to our family.”
“We are so grateful to be a Coast Guard family and receive financial assistance for our adoption from the CGMA home study grant and the Coast Guard adoption reimbursement program. The JAG office at TRACEN Yorktown was also a huge help in our process with providing services to notarize documents for our adoption paperwork. We traveled to Korea to meet our sons and are very thankful that as a military family we were able to stay at the Army’s MWR resort, Dragon Hill Lodge, on Yongsan Army Garrison. On our most recent trip, we stayed in country for over a month and it was nice to have a little piece of the USA in the middle of Seoul.”
All of these families took advantage of the resources and benefits available to Coast Guard members interested in adoption.
1. Adoption Reimbursement Program: Coast Guard active duty members and reservists on active duty for at least 180 consecutive days are eligible for reimbursement of up to 2,000 dollars per child per year and a maximum of 5,000 dollars in any calendar year.
In addition, Coast Guard members may be eligible for a tax credit for qualifying expenses related to the adoption. To learn more, contact your tax advisor regarding adoption tax credits. The Coast Guard Adoption Reimbursement Program has more information on their website.
2. Coast Guard Support program or CG SUPRT: Assists Coast Guard personnel and their families with adoption resources. CG SUPRT provides confidential professional counseling, education, and referral services on a range of issues such as personal financial management, health coaching, education and career development, relationships, and legal matters. They can be contacted at 855-CGSUPRT or 855-247-8778.
3. Coast Guard Mutual Assistance for adoption: Coast Guard Mutual Assistance offers two types of assistance directly related to the legal adoption of a child: an interest free loan up to 6,000 dollars for qualified expenses relating to the adoption, and a grant, not to exceed 3,000 dollars (recently increased), for the cost of a home study fee.
To help promote and support National Adoption Month visit the Health and Human Services website or click here to learn the history of National Adoption Month. To locate the Work-Life staff at your Health, Safety and Work-Life Regional Practice, dial 800-872-4957.
For additional information related to this All Hands Blog, please contact the Office of Work-Life Family Support Services Program Manager, Ms. Lisa Johnson.