Your Guide to Military Adoption

December 24, 2022
Your Guide to Military Adoption

Military families can provide great, stable homes for adopted children. The adoption process for military personnel however, is slightly different from that of a regular civilian adoption. Due to the nature of the military, families need to consider factors such as travel and relocation when pursuing an adoption. Factors such as deployments and overseas orders do not necessarily disqualify you from adopting but it is highly encouraged you complete your research and talk to your local JAG office in regards to the adoption requirements. Although adoptions vary depending on the child’s home state and country, below is a generic list of what to expect when adopting!  

Types of Adoptions

Agency Adoption

Agency adoptions usually come with more training and counseling programs and the agency guides families step-by-step throughout the entire process. The agency will usually be the ones to put families in contact with a birth mother.

Independent Adoption

Also known as private adoption, is when the family works with an attorney throughout the adoption process instead of working with an agency. Private adoptions typically have fewer requirements and is a more flexible process. This type of adoption is generally for families who are more comfortable navigating their way through the process themselves.

Identified Adoption

Typically when the family finds a birth mother and ask an adoption agency to handle the adoption process.


Another route to adopt a child is to foster. The foster care system is a temporary arrangement in which families will care for a child whose birth parents are unable to do so. Some families may chose a foster adoption in which a child is place in their care with the expectation that the family will become legally adopted by them. Military families should keep in mind that foster children are legally in the custody of the state, so when they receive order to PCS, they should plan accordingly.


Adopting a child from abroad requires working with an international child-placing agency and abiding by various immigration laws.


Once you determine the type of adoption you would like to pursue, here are some other considerations to keep in mind:

  • If you or a spouse is deployed, the spouse deployed will need to grant a power of attorney to the other spouse so they are able to make legal decisions on the other’s behalf.
  • If you PCS to a different state during the adoption process, you will need to update your home study to reflect the change of address and state.
  • Even if you live overseas, you can still work with a domestic adoption agency. However, keep in mind if a child is placed with you, you will need to take care of any visa and passport requirements for the child.

Military Benefits

The DoD Adoption Reimbursement Program reimburses service members for qualifying adoption expenses. Any fees associated with an adoption agency, home study, medical, and legal fees can be reimbursed up to $2,000 per adopted child or $5,000 per year if multiple children are adopted within the year.  

Military Adoption Leave is occasionally granted to service members after the placement of an adopted child. This allows the service member time to bond with the new child. Adoption leave is usually up to 21 days.

Health care benefits for the child can be given before the adoption is final. A court order for the placement males the child eligible for military health benefits.

Families Station in the U.S.

For families stationed in the U.S., rules are regulated according to the state where you’re stationed as well as the child’s state of residence. The Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children is an important agreement to be aware of as it regulates the placement of children across state lines. If you are attempting to adopt a child who lives outside of the U.S., inter-country adoption becomes slightly more complicated due to immigration laws.

Families stationed overseas

If you are stationed overseas, you must comply with the same laws as those living in the U.S. but is based off of your legal (permanent) residence within the U.S. If you are adopting from another country, you will need to comply with the laws of your country of residence and the laws of the child’s home country.  

Basic Adoption Process:

1. Home Study

A required step in the adoption process is a home study. A home study is essentially an overview of your life and can encompass aspects of your finances, personal relationships, and requires a background check. This is then used by the court to determine if you can provide a stable environment for an adopted child. If you are stationed overseas, the home study can sometimes be completed by a government agency, a licensed private social worker or a licensed adoption agency, depending on the country. If you are unsure where to find a qualified home study provider, the Social Service Department on base is a great resource.

2. Legal Representation

If you currently live overseas, it is highly recommended that you speak with an adoption or immigration attorney to discuss any legal conflicts that may arise during the adoption process. Your local JAG office will also be able to assist you or put you in contact with someone to help during the adoption. As part of the adoption process, agencies may require written verification from legal counsel who will verify that your adoption will be accepted and valid in the country in which you live.

3. Placement

Once your home study has been verified and meets all the requirements, your “profile” will be shown to expectant mothers or you will be matched with a child. You will be expected to travel to the U.S. for the placement and finalization of the child if you are living overseas. Once placed with a child, this is when you can start the process of obtaining a passport and ensuring all the citizenship and immigration information is completed and accurate.


Adoption and Military Families
National Military Family Association – Information regarding rights, benefits, and services available to military families.
AdoptUSKids – Adoption for military families overseas and in the U.S.

“Adoption.” National Military Family Association. 2018. Web.
“Adoption Resources for Military Families.” AdoptUSKids. 2018. Web.
“Can I Adopt While in the Military?” Considering Adoption. 2018. Web.
“Intercountry Adoption.” Travel.State.Gov. 2018. Web.
“Military Adoption Information.” American Adoptions. 2018. Web.
“Military Families Considering Adoption: Factsheet for Families.” Child Welfare Information Gateway. April 2016. Web.
“Private vs. Agency Adoption.” My Adoption Advisor. 2018. Web.

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