About 7.8 percent of all military members are single parents -- 10.7 percent for the Army, 7.6 percent for the Navy, 5.8 percent for the Air Force, and 4.7 percent for the Marine Corps. Additionally, there are about 84,000 military-married-to-military couples. About 36,000 of those couples have children.
The military services have always had regulations which required single-parents and military-married-to-military couples with children to have plans concerning the care of their dependents in the event they were ever deployed. However, to be truthful, these regulations weren't strictly enforced until the Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
When the services got orders from the President to begin deploying active duty military members to the Gulf for DESERT SHIELD, and activating National Guard and Reserve members, they got an unexpected surprise -- hundreds of single-parents and dual-military couples with children were not ready to go. They had no plans for the care of their children. This caused a lot of rescheduling and juggling of deployment plans.
As a result, the Department of Defense (DOD) got tough. In July of 1992, DOD published DOD Instruction 1342.19, Family Care Plans, to standardize the requirements for all of the military services. Additionally, the military services stopped accepting single-parents for enlistment in the military.
Single Parents and Military Couples with Children
While the military no longer allows single parents to enlist, if one becomes a single parent while in the military, due to death of a spouse, separation/divorce, adoption, etc., or a military couple has children, the military will not force them to separate from the service, as long as they meet the family care requirements of DOD and the various related service regulations. In a nutshell, that means such members must have a "family care plan."
Family Care Plans
While there are some minor administrative differences in each of the services, family care plans have three basic requirements: short-term care providers, long-term care providers, and care provision details.
Short-Term Care Provider. Single-parents and military couples with children must designate a non-military person who will agree, in writing, to accept care of the member's children at any time, 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, in the event the military member is called to duty or deployed with no-notice. While this person cannot be another military member, the person can be a military spouse. The short-term care provider must live in the local area where the military member(s) are stationed/located. The short-term care provider must sign the family care plan, indicating that they understand the responsibilities that are being entrusted to them.
Long-Term Care Provider. In addition to the short-term care provider, the military member(s) must also designate a non-military person, who will agree, in writing, to provide long-term care for their children in the event the military member(s) are deployed for a significant period, or in the event they are selected for an unaccompanied overseas tour, or are assigned to a ship at sea. The long-term care provider does not have to live in the local area, but the family care plan must contain provisions to transfer the child(ren) from the short-term care provider to the long-term care provider (finances, airline tickets, etc.), in the event a no-notice deployment turns into a long-term deployment. The long-term care provider must sign the family care plan, indicating that they understand the responsibilities that are being entrusted to them.