New Kentucky law benefits Guardsman with adoption

Story by 1st Lt. Gus LaFontaine, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment

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Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signs into law, House Bill 224 in Frankfort, Ky., April 16, 2012. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Jason Ketterer)

FRANKFORT, Ky. — In 2007 Jarred Turner enlisted in the Kentucky Army National Guard.  When he enlisted he expected most of the conventional benefits that accompany Guard enlistment: educational opportunities, employment and financial prospects, and training in soldiering and leadership.  What he didn’t expect was that the Kentucky Guard would provide a way to pay for his family’s adoption of twin girls.

Fast forward to April 16th, 2012.  Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear signed into law House Bill 224, enacting the Kentucky National Guard Adoption Benefit Program.  The law allows active members of the Kentucky Air and Army National Guard to be reimbursed for a portion of the costs incurred during the adoption process.  Qualifying members of the Guard may be eligible for up to $5,000 of adoption costs of a special-needs child and up to $3,000 for any other child adoption.  Kentucky’s First Lady, Jane Beshear, championed the law, which goes into effect July 12, 2012.

For Turner the timing was perfect.  He began the adoption process three months ago.

“We had been looking to adopt because we wanted more kids and my wife was not ready to carry children during a pregnancy,” said Turner.  “Once we started talking about adoption my wife ran with it.”

Not long after that they were given an opportunity to become foster parents to twin girls.  They received a call that the girls were at the University of Kentucky Hospital awaiting them.

“We brought the girls home from the hospital in April when they were just a few days old,” said Turner.  “They had been in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) because they were two weeks premature.  They were under-weight and had a weak immune system.”

Turner family

Sgt. Jarred Turner’s newest family photo with wife, Rena, their daughter, Michelle, son, Mason and adopted twins. The twins’ faces are concealed for privacy as the adoption process has not been finalized. (Courtesy photo from the Turner family)

Turner and his wife are hopeful that foster care will lead to the ability to adopt the girls.

“It would be amazing to have these guys.  We’ve watched them progress through every step.  They had a lot of issues when they were born.  One was 5.7 lbs. and the other was three and a half pounds.  They’ve tripled in weight,” said Turner.

The Turner’s have already started the lengthy process to adopt.  They’ve been working with state caseworkers during this process.

“The caseworkers have told us it will take about two years to adopt from the time of birth.  Both of our caseworkers seem pretty hopeful that we will be able to keep the girls, said Turner.”

Adoption is not only a lengthy process, but also a costly one.

“We expect the cost to adopt to be about a thousand dollars per child,” said Turner.  “Most of that are lawyer expenses.  At the end of the day we don’t have an extra two thousand dollars.  We would sell something or take out a loan.  This new law will make it easy for us not to worry about that and take care of the girls.”

Freddie Maggard, Community Relations and Outreach for the Kentucky National Guard, is helping get the word out about this new benefit for Soldiers.

“Sgt. Turner’s family is exactly who this bill was designed to help when we first discussed the issue with Mrs. Beshear,” said Maggard.  “House Bill 224 directly helps Kentucky National Guard families through a difficult and challenging process.  As an adoptive parent, I understand the stress associated with adoption.  With House Bill 224, the Commonwealth and the Kentucky National Guard is yet again saying that family truly does come first.  I’m honored to have played a small role in House Bill 224, this law will positively affect Kentucky families for many generations to come.”

For Turner, this unexpected benefit further impacts his conviction in the honor of being a Guardsman.

“The Kentucky Army National Guard has done a lot of great things for me.  I love the Guard.”

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