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Family Matters Blog: Program Helps Military Families Adopt

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 29, 2010 – I met an amazing military family the other day that opened their hearts and home to three children.

Click photo for screen-resolution image
Air Force Master Sgt. Kipp M. Bourgeois and his wife, Christina, pose for a picture with their three children: Emalie, 14; Kameron, 12; and SkylarRae, 3. All three children were adopted with help from the Defense Department's adoption reimbursement program. Courtesy photo
  

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

Air Force Master Sgt. Kipp M. Bourgeois and his wife, Christina, adopted their children, thanks in part to financial assistance from the Defense Department’s adoption reimbursement program. The couple had been trying to conceive for more than a decade, but Christina's battle with endometriosis served as a barrier to their attempts.

They moved to Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., in 2000, and saw a fertility specialist who told the couple their only hope was in vitro fertilization. But at $15,000 a try and only a 30-percent success rate, as the doctor told them, the family just couldn't swing the cost.

They decided to look into adoption, specifically a special-needs adoption through the state. "Dealing with special needs wasn’t an issue for us," Bourgeois told me.

They set their sights on two siblings, Emalie and Kameron, who were 4- and 3-years-old at the time. The state considered the children as having special needs due to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and allergies. But the couple didn't think twice about their special needs or the fact that they would be accepting two children into their home rather than one.

"My wife fell in love with both of them, just based on their picture," Bourgeois recalled. "They just looked like they fit in our family."

Since the adoption was done through the state of Nevada, the family's costs were minimal. Still, they had to pay about $2,000 out of pocket for fingerprinting, training classes and a lawyer to finalize the adoption. The couple turned to the Defense Department's adoption reimbursement program for financial help, joining thousands of other military couples who have received compensation to defray adoption costs through the program since 1991. In 2009, the program distributed nearly 650 payments throughout the services, totaling more than $1 million.

The program reimburses servicemembers for certain adoption expenses such as agency and placement fees, legal fees and medical expenses.  Servicemembers who serve continuously on active duty for at least 180 days can receive up to a maximum of $2,000 per child, but can't exceed $5,000 per calendar year.

For the Bourgeois family, the money covered their out-of-pocket expenses almost entirely after their first adoption was finalized in 2003.

They again turned to the program for help on their next adoption, three years later.

Bourgeois was working with the birth mother and father at the time. When the birth mother found out she was pregnant, she was distraught, knowing her family wouldn't approve since she wasn't married, he said. Knowing they had adopted before, she called and asked the couple if they would take the baby.

Since this adoption was private, it was more costly, adding up to roughly $13,000, Bourgeois said. But between the department's reimbursement program and IRS tax credits, their out-of-pocket expenses were minimal.

Emalie and Kameron are now 14 and 12, and their youngest, SkylarRae, is 3.

While Bourgeois said he remains grateful for the resources that aided his family: "The love that [my children] return makes the money not even a thought in the end."

I'm grateful there are people out there like the Bourgeois family. Thanks to them, deserving children in need are able to grow up in healthy and happy homes.

If you’re interested in adopting, don't hesitate to look into the adoption reimbursement program. The department also offers servicemembers who adopt up to 21 days of nonchargeable leave to be used in connection with the adoption. For more information, contact your local family support center or personnel office, or call Military OneSource at 1-800-342-9647.

To comment on this blog, please visit the Family Matters blog.

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