My daughter’s Clementine’s adoption is in 48 hours. But the excitement I’m feeling for this monumental event is tempered by the stress of taking time off from work for the ceremony. That in and of itself has made me think about the many adoption-friendly workplaces here in New York City — and also why I’m not working at one of them.
This month is National Adoption Month, and the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption just announced the 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces in the U.S. to honor companies that offer the best adoption benefits in the country. Perks few of us are even aware of are offered to employees all over the country in an effort to “make adoption an affordable option for every working parent.”
Employers who applied for inclusion on this year’s list offer an average of $7,500 in financial adoption assistance and 4.5 weeks of paid leave. Some companies offer as much as 18 weeks of paid leave and $25,300 of financial reimbursement. Topping the list is American Express, Zappos, Domino’s, Bloomberg LLP and Cornell University. (The full list is available here and is compiled by analysis of both financial assistance and paid leave offered to employees who adopt.)
Unpaid leave for adoption, beyond what is required by the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), ranges from one week to two years. Comparatively, my workplace offers $0, 0 days paid leave and 0 unpaid leave beyond what is required by FMLA.
Last year, I used up every single one of my vacation days (10 in total) on court dates. Most of those dates were adjourned within minutes, but the lack of flexibility at my job required that I plan ahead and request the full day off. Now that my daughter’s adoption is complete, I will still be using most of my vacation time to participate in birth family visits — a connection that I believe is extremely important for everyone involved. Monthly visits are part of our post-adoption agreement but I see that as the minimum. Clementine’s birth mother, father, maternal grandfather, and mother’s boyfriend all attend each visit. With everyone’s schedule to juggle (and some people coming from a few hours away) the least I can do is take some time off from work. I’m not comfortable explaining this to my current employer, but if there was an adoption-friendly culture in place and encouraged, I’d definitely be willing to talk to my supervisor about a more flexible schedule.
Odds are you’re reading this and thinking “Well heck, my job doesn’t offer any adoption benefits either.” Maybe you can change that. Check out adoptionfriendlyworkplace.org for a free toolkit and competitive benchmarks. Many employers go beyond benefits to support the cause of adoption by encouraging adoption, educating potential adoptive parents, offering support and networks to employees who adopt, and incorporating adoption into services provided by their employee assistance program. Others include adoption nonprofits in their payroll deduction programs, or participate in cause-related marketing programs.
There are more than 100,000 children in the U.S. foster care system waiting to get adopted. Every year, more than 23,000 children in foster care turn 18 and age-out of the system without families. Consider opening up your family!
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