Beyond maternity: helping families grow through adoption



As a benefits leader, you often seek out opportunities that will help a majority of your people thrive. But in some cases—such as adoption benefits—you can add meaningful policies that will build tremendous support and loyalty even if only one percent of your population, on average, will ever use them.

Like traditional maternity benefits, adoption benefits are designed to support new parents during the weeks and months after a child joins a family. These might include paid leave, unpaid leave, flexible work hours, and reimbursement of certain expenses related to the adoption process.

Things to consider as you build out your adoption benefits

  • Beyond the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which requires public agencies and companies with 50 or more employees to offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave, adoption benefits are not required by law, and apply equally to women and men.
  • Just as no two babies are alike, no two birth or adoption stories are alike. Different challenges arise when a parent is adopting:
    • Domestically or internationally
    • As a single parent or as part of a couple
    • Bringing home a newborn or an older child
    • Adopting from a foster care system
  • There are different requirements by state for how adoptions are finalized, so the length and cost of the adoption process might vary significantly. Because of these variables, flexible work hours may be a very important part of how you support your people around adoption.
  • Adoption benefits can also include providing foster and adoptive parent support groups, information to raise awareness about adoption, and additional resources for new parents to learn about tax and legal issues related to adoption. Some of these services may even be available through your existing Employee Assistance Program.
  • You may need some guidelines to help you define your adoption benefits. For instance, do you want to set eligibility guidelines as to the age of the child? Do you want to cover stepparent adoption differently than other kinship adoptions? For help defining these terms and thinking through options, check out the excellent resources at the Dave Thomas Foundation, which focuses on promoting and supporting adoption-friendly workplaces.

The most important part of building your adoption benefits policy is making sure your people understand that you celebrate their growing families no matter what path their particular family takes to grow. Adding these benefits is usually a low-cost way to support your people through one of the most important times of their lives. For more detail on supporting your people as their families grow, check out our Maternity Kit, which offers useful data, worksheets, and strategic communication guides to help you build these benefit programs.

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