The barriers to entry to the Foreign Service start off high and do not taper off. Individuals pass through written exams, oral examinations, security clearances, and medical (or MED) clearances. Even once an officer has joined the Foreign Service, the hurdles to the career do not stop. Restrictions apply to an officer’s family as well.
Namely, each accompanying family member must have the ability to pass medical clearances ensuring that they can suitably live at an overseas posting to be able to travel officially for the U.S. government.
For Margaret Dean, the bureaucratic hurdles of the requirements for overseas posting came to light with the adoption of her daughter, Andrea. Despite a long-standing career in the Foreign Service and the previous birth of her two boys, Dean faced the stressful task of ensuring medical clearance for her whole family, as Foreign Service Officers may only travel with cleared family members—or face going to post unaccompanied. After a long and difficult bout with meningitis as an infant, Andrea lost her hearing and the worldwide medical clearance that would be needed to live overseas for any posting her mother might receive.
Margaret Dean entered her career in the Foreign Service while posted in Tel Aviv, Israel with her then-husband, an officer himself. After her husband’s death, Dean remained in the Foreign Service, working primarily as an Economic Officer and in human resources. She would later go on to lead the redesign of the Foreign Service entrance examination procedures as Staff Director of the Board of Examiners.