If you’re considering adopting a child, you have a long journey ahead of you. In an ideal world, every parent that wanted to be a stay-at-home mom or dad could — but the reality is that many adoptive parents have to juggle work and the adoption process at the same time.
That doesn’t mean your employer has to make your adoption harder. In fact, more employers are recognizing the importance of offering adoption benefits to those pursuing this family-building path.
But what if no such policies exist at your company? What should you ask your employer for if you’re setting the standard for future adoption policies?
Every person is different, as will be their personal needs and preferences. But here are three things other adoptive parents say made a huge difference in their adoptions.
1. Paid Parental Leave
You don’t have to be an adoptive parent to understand the beauty of paid parental leave. Unfortunately, the U.S. is one of only a few developed countries to not mandate paid leave for new parents, leaving 80 percent of new parents with no option but to take unpaid leave to care for a new child.
Rather than using your vacation and sick time to keep your family afloat, encourage your employer to offer paid parental leave to all parents — including those built by adoption. It can be an intimidating conversation to have, but remember that you’re not alone in wanting this benefit. Even if your employer ultimately can’t provide full-paid parental leave, your negotiations may lead to other benefits, like the ones below.
2. Adoption Assistance or Reimbursement
For most parents, adoption is expensive. Infant and international adoption can cost up to $50,000. While foster care adoption costs are usually covered by the state, there is still a length of time until finalization when adoptive parents must cover certain expenses out of pocket.
Your employer may be open to covering or reimbursing some of these costs. In fact, according to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption’s 2016 report, the 100 most adoption-friendly workplaces in the U.S. gave an average of $8,000 toward reimbursement of adoption expenses.
It may seem like a lot to ask, but remind your employer that an adoption reimbursement program will benefit them, too. Relatively few parents choose adoption in comparison to natural conception. Reimbursement policies will often cost the company only a little — but the positive reputation the company gains is well worth it.
3. Option to Work from Home
Bringing a new child into the home is never easy, regardless of whether they are biologically related or not. Even with FMLA and other parental leave, many parents feel like they need more time to adjust to their new normal.
If you think going back to work full-time after your adoption will be difficult, talk to your employer now about a flexible work schedule. Can you work from home full- or part-time after your parental leave is up?
COVID-19 has opened many companies’ eyes to the benefits of a flexible work schedule; consider leveraging any remote work you did before as proof you can continue to be productive after bringing your child home. Express your commitment and dedication to your responsibilities, even while not in the office.
Other Great Ideas for Employers
If you’re an employer looking for ways to celebrate and support your employee’s adoptions, the items above will be more important than anything else.
Other smaller but heartfelt ideas include:
- An adoption shower: Because of the uncertainty involved in adoption, it’s best to wait until after a child joins the family to throw a shower. Consider throwing a shower when the employee returns to work to say “congratulations” and to provide extra supplies and support they need during this adjustment period.
- Welcoming gifts: You don’t have to wait until your employee returns to work to celebrate their adoption. Consider sending a gift basket (delivery/grocery gift cards are great!) or special item (like a framed print) to their house during their parental leave.
- A family photography session: A new parent has a lot going on, and it can be hard to slow down and appreciate the first few months with their child. Make it easier on them by gifting a family photography session, to be scheduled at their convenience.
- Therapy coverage: If therapy is not already covered as part of your company’s health insurance plan, look into adding it — and making sure an adoption-competent therapist is included. Having access to a qualified mental health professional will make the ups and downs of the adoption journey much easier. Lyra is a great workplace option.
- Flexibility and understanding: Like any new parent, an adoptive parent will need some adjustment time for their new addition. They may need to flex their schedule or take additional time off for calls from schools, appointments and more. Those who adopt out of foster care can have even more unpredictable schedules. Be enthusiastic about working with their personal needs, and they’ll appreciate you for it.
More than anything else, remember to treat any hopeful adoptive parents in your office the same as you would any pregnant or expectant employee. Adoptive parents already feel “different” for choosing this family-building path; do all you can to make them feel seen and their addition feel celebrated.