NEWS | May 24, 2021

Adoption Program helps Guard members help children

By 1st Lt. Logan England 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

Story by 1st Lt. Logan England, Kentucky Army National Guard

The Kentucky National Guard Adoption Assistance program is dedicated to assisting National Guard service members lessen the financial burden of adoption by reimbursing some of the costs. 

Executive Order 2019-787 was enacted October 22, 2019, which increased the amounts from $3,000 or $5,000 to $5,000, or $7,000 for children with special needs. This money is distributed in the form of a reimbursement, a stipend, or a combination thereof to help cover adoption expenses and offset future medical or educational costs. The increase in reimbursement amounts was done to provide more children of Kentucky permanent and loving homes. 

In order to receive the benefit, the service member must be in good standing with the Kentucky National Guard and submit the completed adoption assistance application, the adoption reimbursement request form, and a copy of the court documents showing the Order and Judgment of Adoption and the notarized affidavit of expenses form.  

Army Sgt. Johnathan Privett from Bravo Battery 1-623d Field Artillery (HIMARS) heard about the program from his lieutenant. She got him into contact with the program representative. "Finding out that the National Guard would reimburse some of the cost was a huge relief for not only me, but my wife as well," Privett says. "It felt like a reward for serving with no strings attached. It also added to the reasons that I wanted to re-enlist, to help with the cost of future adoptions." 

"The program was really easy to use," Privett recalled, "the information was step by step. Once the paperwork was submitted, a representative told me that the application was received and approved. About seven weeks later, the money was in our account." 

The program was first enacted on April 16, 2012, by Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear. He signed into law House Bill 223, also known as "Ellie's Bill." The inspiration for this bill, Elizabeth Maggard, was adopted by Chief Warrant Officer 4 Jennifer and Freddie Maggard. She was going through the adoption process while being on temporary orders and realized that there were only adoption benefits for active-duty soldiers. Freddie attended a military spouse meeting with First Lady Jane Basher; the issue was immediately addressed, and House Bill 223 was signed within a few months. "Knowing the program has grown further to help our National Guard soldiers is a true blessing," said Chief Maggard. "Anytime we can help take care of our Guard family is a win for the National Guard as a whole."   

Now, nine years after Governor Beshear Sr. signed the Adoption Program bill, 30 Soldiers/Airmen have capitalized on this program, with a total of 35 adoptions, to grow their families and help to relieve some of the financial hardship that comes with adoption. In 2021 alone, four families have received the benefit. Since 2012 the program has reimbursed adoption costs for domestic and global adoptions in $107,763.74 worth of awarded grants. 

Army Maj. Shane Blankenship, the 138th Field Artillery Brigade chaplain, utilized the adoption assistance program twice after hearing about it through his Brigade JAG officer. First in 2016 when he and his wife adopted their son Marshall, then in 2020 when they adopted their daughter Bailey. 

He was excited and grateful when he initially learned about the adoption assistance program. 

"You don't start the adoption process with the hopes of being reimbursed; it is just part of it," said Blankenship. "So, to find out that we would get a little of that cost back was an incredible blessing." 

When asked to advise anyone that is going through the process or considering adoption, Blankenship said "Be patient. It is a long process and certainly has its hurdles, but the blessing outweighs it all. Be steadfast and keep moving forward."

There are 135,000 children adopted annually within the United States, according to Legacy Adoption Services. The United States has the highest adoption rate in the world. Adoption is not an easy process, but it is more than worth it to the families and children affected. Currently, there are more than 107,000 children eligible and waiting for adoption in foster care. The average age of a child waiting for adoption is seven, and 29% of all children will spend at least three years in the foster system. Adoption is the opportunity to change the life of a child and create a family.

The process of adopting a child can be lengthy and challenging. 

"The biggest piece of advice I could give would be persistent patience," said Chief Maggard. "The adoption process can be a long, draining process, especially mentally. Just know it will happen when the time is right, and you will end up with the child that was born for your family." 

Privett agreed with her sentiment, stating that "adoption is a long and stressful process, but the result is definitely worth the time that it takes." 

If any Soldiers are interesting in utilizing the Kentucky Adoption Assistance Program, please visit https://personnel.ky.gov/Pages/Adoptionbenefit.aspx or contact Mrs. April Brown, the Administrative Services Director, at 502-607-1738 or judith.a.brown38.nfg@mail.mil.