Like a mother who has just given birth, the parent who adopts a child needs time to bond and to adjust to a household that’s been turned upside down by the arrival of a new family member.
According to Hewitt Associates, that’s the consensus of the approximately 45% of U.S. companies that offer money or paid time off to adoptive parents. The number of employers offering such benefits has grown since 1999, when 29% offered adoption benefits. Among Working Mother magazine’s “100 Best” companies, 91% do today.
“It’s an absolute goodwill gesture,” says Rita Soronen, executive director of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. “It’s a recognition that families are created in a number of different ways.”
While firms offer anywhere from $500 to $20,000 to adoptive parents, the average benefit is $4,700, according to the foundation. In addition, most firms with the benefit give from one to 16 weeks’ paid leave to adoptive parents. The average is five weeks. Some offer unpaid leave beyond the 12 weeks provided by the.
Easy administration, low cost
Adoption benefits are easy to manage. They cost employers very little—fewer than one-half of 1% of an organization’s employees will use them. Yet the work force—even those who do not intend to adopt—appreciate an employer that offers the benefits.
Some examples of how employers provide adoption benefits:
- Citizens Financial Group in Providence, RI, offers employees $20,960 per adoption, including $10,960 in direct reimbursement and $10,000 toward the cost of legal and adoption agency fees. All employees are eligible immediately upon hire.
- CMP Technology of Manhasset, NY, offers up to $15,000 and two weeks’ paid leave to adoptive parents.
- Avon Products offers employees who are primary caregivers eight weeks’ paid leave plus up to $10,000 after an adoption. Secondary caregivers get two weeks.
“It’s equitable for companies to do this because they [often] do offer benefits to people who are having babies by birth,” says Gloria Hochman, director of communications for the National Adoption Center. “It gives employees the accurate perception that the company is very concerned about the employees and their families.”
Making adoption benefits work
Here are six ways to make the most of an adoption benefit for your employees:
- Offer a combination of financial assistance and paid and unpaid leave.
- Write a policy that outlines how the money will be disbursed: e.g., in a lump sum, for specific expenses or as a reimbursement once receipts are presented.
- Consider placing an annual or lifetime limit on the amount each employee can receive.
- Increase the amount you offer if the employee adopts a special-needs child. The average additional amount is $1,700.
- If both parents work for your organization, specify that they must share the leave and the financial assistance.
- Get creative with adoption benefits. The software firm SAS, for instance, helps match adoptive parents as mentors with its employees who want to adopt. It also runs a LISTSERV and a lending library for them. Cornell University hosts an annual conference for employees to learn about private, domestic, international and public-agency adoptions.
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