If anyone is seeking an issue for which to crusade in his workplace, may I suggest employee adoption benefits? If you are “waiting,” this is the time to make a pitch to your employer to institute or improve these benefits. If you have already completed your adoption, you can certainly remember that your employer undoubtedly could have provided more support with paid leave, adoption fee reimbursement or both. While I was in the waiting phase, I found several ways to work toward encouraging my employer to improve the benefits provided to adoptive parents. In the summer of 1996, I participated in a diversity session focusing on work and family issues. Several women at the session complained about the amount of paid maternity leave time provided by the company, indicating that it was not competitive with other firms in our industry. I piped up and informed the group that the company offered no paid time for an employee who adopted a child. After the session, I approached the facilitator who was one of the most senior women at my company. I asked for her assistance in identifying human resources employees who would be in a position to change benefits. Finally, in January of 1997, I submitted this idea to the company chairman’s electronic suggestion box. My focus was paid adoption leave, but this proposal could easily be altered to push for new or improved adoption expense reimbursement. I borrowed heavily from a booklet called “Advocating for Adoption Benefits: An Employee’s Guide” which is published by the National Adoption Center to write the proposal. The Center can be reached at 800-862-3678 (website: www.adopt.org).
Changes were already in the works when I submitted my idea. In February of 1997, my company began to provide twelve weeks of paid adoption leave to the primary care giving parent in birth, adoption, foster care and guardian care situations. When I adopted in June of 1997, I was able to use the new paid leave benefit. The time I was able to take off to be with my daughter was invaluable. During my leave, I wrote my company’s CEO a note of thanks for instituting the generous paid leave benefit and sent along my daughter’s adoption announcement. His handwritten response of congratulations will always be a treasure in my daughter’s memory book. I encourage you to send out an email, use your desk as your soapbox or do whatever it takes to get your employer to institute or improve its adoption benefits. In doing so, your company can join the ranks of enlightened employers who acknowledge the fact that adoption is an important way to build a family.