National Adoption Awareness Month

Our first National Adoption Awareness month! Last year at this time we were still having the discussion about whether we were ready to finally start our family, and this year we find ourselves anxiously waiting to become parents.

We always knew that adoption would be part of our family, if we should choose to have one. As thrilled as were (and are) to finally start our family, I have to admit, we didn't really *know* how different the adoption path would be. I mean, there's the obvious parts like not going through childbirth, parenting a child that is genetically related to you, and all the logistical hoops we have to jump through to have a child.

But the things that really caught me a bit off-guard are the type of things that you really couldn't imagine or understand unless you are involved in adoption. There are so many ways adoptive families are set apart from biologically made families. And I've started to realize that some people have a very shallow definition of what a family is.

After we started moving forward on our adoption, I looked into my company's benefits. Not only does the typical maternity benefits not apply to me--my company, a multi-million dollar company, does not have any adoption benefits at all. None. Zilch. And that's bogus.

For years American companies have provided paid medical leave and reimbursements for medical care to employees having a child. But as you all know, not every family is created the same way. Evidently many companies only consider the traditional method of creating a family worth recognizing (and subsidizing).

Take paid maternity leave. If I had the child biologically, I'd get the typical 6-weeks paid leave. But adoptive moms aren't treated the same way as biological moms. I'll be using the family medical leave act which entitles me to take unpaid time off. Better than nothing, but still chaps my hide. Of course, after the costs associated with adoption, taking several months off work without pay will be a tricky endeavor.

Want to see what type of benefits are out there? Here's a list of super awesome companies that are good to adoptive families: The Dave Thomas Foundation's annual 100 Best Adoption-Friendly workplaces. I'm so jealous!

Some top notch companies have been offering adoption benefits since the late 80s. Many offer monetary reimbursements for the costs associated with adoption (which is a great way to stress the importance of families at a company) and in a 1999 study, it was estimated that about 31% of companies offered an average monetary reimbursement of $3100 (from The Free Library). The average as of 2004 is around $5000 and the numbers of companies offering these types of benefits are growing.

National Adoption Awareness Month calendar
But by looking at the activity for today on the National Adoption Month awareness calendar, I am inclined to believe there are more companies out there like the one I work for. And how sad that is! The number of adoptions from foster care are rising, the number of international adoptions are increasing, and the number of domestic adoptions have all trended upwards in recent years. Clearly there are more people adopting now than ever before.  So are companies not offering benefits because of the costs associated?

According to Rita Soronen, executive director of the Adoption Friendly Workplace initiative, not all companies offer adoption benefits because "it's not on their radar. They don't think of it until an employee raises the issue, and it takes a savvy employee to know if her company or a competitor offers it. Some companies don't think it's worth the effort to put them in place, because it's such a special niche. Some companies think they can't afford it, and some just don't want to offer them."

So adoptive friends and family, I guess it's up to us to help educate the masses. Propose ways to make your company more adoption friendly with the help of a free adoption-friendly workplace toolkit from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. You can also check out the adoption friendly employers and benchmarks HERE.

I ordered copies of this information for my company. And I hope you'll consider joining in on this effort, whether you are an adoptive family or not. Chances are that you know someone who has been touched by adoption, and if you could help pave the way for another family to be created, wouldn't that be worth the effort?


  1. I had to take many weeks of unpaid leave because I didn't birth my son. It's totally unfair. Thanks for all the info!

  2. Good luck! I hope you're able to make a change at your company. Teaching has the same benefits regardless. You're welcome to use whatever sick days you've accumulated. Then it's unpaid leave whether by birth or adoption. So it pretty much isn't a great benefit either way. ;)

  3. It *is* sad. I didn't have to deal with a crappy employer situation, but we did get denied health insurance coverage for Olive because she was adopted. And that definitely chapped our hides!

  4. very sad, indeed. i'm lucky enough where my sick leave will cover my FMLA leave, so i'll still be paid, but i'd love it if some of the costs were covered! our district provides wonderful coverage for infertility treatments, but nothing for adoption...maybe someday...


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