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Adoption Benefit Spawns In-House Support Group

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A few years ago, the SAS Institute started reimbursing employees who adopted children up to $5,000 toward their expenses. The company also began covering adopted children as soon as the parent gained custody, rather than after all the legal wrangling was finished—a benefit popular with employees.

But the in-house publicity about the benefits sparked something work/life program manager Laura Wallace hadn't expected: questions from would-be parents about whether it's quicker to adopt from China or Russia, and about which local adoption lawyer is the best.

For advice, Wallace turned to the experts: SAS employees who had previously adopted children. And a companywide network was born. Wallace convened a panel of five adoptive parents and invited employees. Eighty came.

Next, she asked SAS's adoptive parents to fill out forms saying where they found their children, how much the adoption cost and which agency they used. Wallace compiled their answers into a notebook for employees to leaf through.

But the parents agreed to do more: They volunteered to serve as mentors to co-workers in the adoption process. Wallace introduces mentors to "mentees" and lets the pairs take it from there. She helped them start a support group, which meets every two months to talk about adoption or parenting or to hear a lawyer or agency representative speak.

Eventually, SAS added a parenting resource consultant to its staff to formalize and expand the programs, which now include sessions for adoptive parents of special-needs and older children. Finally, it started an intranet discussion group for existing and would-be adoptive parents.

Contact: Laura Sarisky, parenting resource consultant, SAS,

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