There’s a lot to prepare for before and after a foster care adoption. It takes time to choose an adoption agency, complete your home study and get your home ready for your foster child.
With so much to do, you’re probably going to need a break after your adoption. So, you may wonder:
- Is there foster-to-adopt parental leave?
- Can you receive foster-to-adopt paternity leave?
- Is there maternity leave for foster-to-adopt parents?
If you’re asking these questions, there’s good news. Foster-to-adopt and adoptive parents are covered under the FMLA, also known as the Family and Medical Leave Act.
But, what does this mean? What are your rights in this process — and how are they protected?
We answer these questions and more below, where you’ll find everything you need to know about FMLA for adoption from foster care.
What is Parental Leave?
Every new parent, no matter how they choose to build their family, needs some time to bond with their child. This getting-to-know-you stage is just as important for you as it is for your foster (soon-to-be-adopted) child.
Every foster child’s situation is different, but they’re all looking for the love and support of a family. Making as much time for your child as you can during this difficult transition will help them adjust quicker and more smoothly.
Guidelines for parental leave — whether it’s paid and how long it will last — will depend on your employer. It’s important to check in with your HR department or your employer if you have any questions about how fostering-for-adoption pay and leave works at your company.
You should also remember to ask if your company’s policy includes paid family leave for birth, adoptive or foster parents. Clearing this up early on will make your experience much smoother.
What is FMLA?
The Family and Medical Leave Act, also known as FMLA, was first passed in 1993. Under this act, eligible employees are entitled to unpaid, job-protected leave for certain circumstances. You are able to use paid leave while on FMLA.
However, not every employee or employer is covered under FMLA. So, what makes you eligible? Under FMLA, an employee is considered eligible if they:
- Work for a covered employer
- Have been employed with the company for at least 12 months
- Have worked 1,250 hours in the last year
- Have a specified family or medical reason
If you meet the qualifications to be covered under the FMLA, your FMLA adoption/foster care rights will be protected.
If you have any other questions about the FMLA, the Department of Labor is a great resource. Here, find answers to commonly asked questions.
When Can Foster-to-Adopt Parents Take Advantage of FMLA?
If you’re fostering a child with the intent to adopt, you’re probably wondering when you can take fostering-for-adoption pay and leave. Does it happen when your child is placed with you or when the adoption takes place?
The foster-to-adopt process can be confusing. But, essentially, a parent can take FMLA to bond with their foster child upon initial placement. They’re also able to take FMLA before the actual placement, if needed for the adoption proceedings (such as to appear in court or complete counseling sessions).
An employee is limited to a total of 12 protected workweeks of leave. So, you won’t be able to take 12 weeks before and 12 weeks after the placement of your foster child. This leave can also only be taken during the first 12 months of a foster child’s placement. For more information or tips about FMLA and foster care adoption, please don’t hesitate to reach out to your caseworker.
Advocating for Your Rights
Unfortunately, not everyone understands why parents ask for paid family leave for adopted or fostered children. Many people incorrectly think that if you’re not the one giving birth, then you really don’t need that time away from your daily responsibilities.
But, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Every child adopted through foster care has their own traumatic experiences. More than anything, they need a supportive home, a consistent schedule to follow during their initial adjustment and the love and encouragement of their new family. A child adopted from foster care needs just as much support as any other adoptee. Just because a child is older (even a teenager), it doesn’t mean that they can “take care of themselves,” as an employer might try to tell you.
If you’re working for an employer who doesn’t understand the need for fostering-for-adoption leave and pay, you’re not alone. Not everyone is as knowledgeable about why adoption leave is so important. Take the initiative to educate them from the beginning of your journey — not just when a foster child is placed with you.
If you are dealing with a difficult employer, however, don’t be afraid to contact an attorney for help. They can help you advocate for your rights for FMLA for your adoption from foster care.
Like with any type of adoption, it can be tough to navigate your foster care adoption rights. But educating yourself now is the first step to getting the parental leave you need to bond with your newest member of the family.
If you have any other questions about the Family Medical Leave Act, for adoption or foster care, please reach out to a local foster care agency or your caseworker for more information.