My Coast Guard
Commentary | Nov. 17, 2021

The Coast Guard can help lessen your fees to adopt a child

By Lisa Johnson, Family Support Services Program Manager 

In his proclamation for National Adoption Month, President Joseph Biden shared that, “Every child deserves to grow up with a safe and loving family, with the care and support of their community.” What better community to be part of than the Coast Guard’s? Coast Guard families are fostering and adopting with support from their families, commands, as well as the Coast Guard Office of Work-Life and Coast Guard Mutual Assistance (CGMA). 
They say it takes a village to raise a child, and we believe there is no better village than within the Coast Guard community. Read about four remarkable Coast Guard families who have adopted this past year and how each of them of have had unique adoption journeys:

“After a two and a half year adoption journey, my wife Caroline and I were able to bring our daughter, Isha, home from India in November 2020. Over this past year, she has been such a blessing and joy to our whole family,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kir Kalmbacher.

“Thank you to the CGMA for covering our home study expenses and thank you to Coast Guard Work-Life for the Adoption Reimbursement! These grants played a significant role in offsetting the significant costs associated with adoption and helped make our journey possible!” he added.

“We adopted Elena Rose (Ellie) officially this year, but it started back in early October 2020. After having waited a year and a half to be matched, we were finally matched with a birthmother within 24 hours of Ellie's birth,” explained Cmdr. Jeff Padilla.

“We didn't get custody until the hospital discharge, and we had to navigate a transition from Colorado Medicaid to TRICARE with a baby who still needed home oxygen therapy. Home oxygen therapy continued through the five-month mark, and after six months we finally had our remote court date with the magistrate in Colorado, which finalized the adoption on our first Mother's Day weekend.” 

“With Ellie fully weaned off of home oxygen therapy, she continued to thrive as we faced a difficult PCS transfer to California,” Padilla said. “As far as the adoption credit, it definitely defrayed some of the myriad expenses with everything involved.”

“Adoption can be a challenging journey, emotionally and financially,” said Chief Petty Officer Adam Season. “We are so grateful for all of the support we received from family and friends, and from the Coast Guard. 

“The adoption reimbursement helped us recover some of the costs required to finalize our son’s adoption,” Season said. “We prayed for a child for a long time and feel so honored and blessed to call Isaac our son. He is a precious gift and we love being his mommy and daddy!”

“Our story started with a phone call,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class, Justin T. Harris. “A teenage girl at my parent’s church was pregnant at 14 and not keeping her baby. The family was hoping for someone they knew to adopt so they can still be part of the baby's life.

“We met the birth mother and she came to spend her spring break with us so she would see how her baby would live. Once she decided she wanted us to be the parents of her baby, we started researching a private adoption. We learned we would need to hire an attorney in Tennessee and Mississippi as we lived in Mississippi and the birth mother [was] in Tennessee, as well as, a guardian ad litem, in each state.

“We already had a home study (an evaluation of your home safety required by law) as we are licensed foster parents, but had to pay to use it for the adoption. We found representation, got all of the paperwork ready, and then just waited for the call that she was in labor. With COVID becoming a bigger issue, we were very concerned about regulations at the hospital. The hospital was amazing and gave us our own room to start bonding with Savannah Grace right away. 

“We got to bring her home to my parents' house from the hospital, but she wasn't officially ours yet. We were granted legal guardianship in Tennessee so we could go home to Mississippi, then we were able to petition for the adoption. At nine months old, Savannah was finally happily a Harris! We were beyond blessed to have the support of our friends and family to help offset the cost of the adoption, including our Coast Guard family through the Adoption Reimbursement.” 

National Adoption Month is an annual campaign sponsored by the Children’s Bureau of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in partnership with Child Welfare Information Gateway and AdoptUSKids. Stay connected throughout the month to raise awareness by following #NationalAdoptionMonth on Facebook and Twitter.

Relevant Resources:

  • 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 per child, per year, and a maximum of $5,000 in any calendar year.
  • Coast Guard Support Program or CG SUPRT: Assists Coast Guard personnel and their families with adoption resources. They can be contacted at 855-CGSUPRT or 855-247-8778.
  • 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 for qualified expenses relating to the adoption; and a grant, not to exceed $3,000, for the cost of a home study fee.