In our last post, we discussed how to support employees who are undergoing fertility care. Today, we’re going to share how to do the same for employees who are going through the adoption process. While there are overlapping challenges that come with both, adoption and fertility care treatments are ultimately very different journeys and should be treated as such.
Understand the adoption process
Similar to many fertility-related treatments, the details of the adoption process are relatively unknown to most people. As an employer, manager, or HR leader, it may be helpful to familiarize yourself with the journey so to better understand what your employee is going through — otherwise, it can be difficult to empathize with their situation. Let’s walk through a few key things to know about the adoption process:
- There are several routes for adoption. Under the American legal system, there are multiple paths for adoption, and each come with a unique set of regulations and challenges. For instance, the process of adopting internationally has very different requirements from a domestic adoption. Similarly, working with an adoption agency is distinct from working directly with an attorney. Understanding that each person’s adoption journey is nuanced is a great first step to being supportive.
- The process can take years. One of the hardest things about adoption is that the timeline is very unpredictable and can span anywhere from several months to several years. Sometimes, parents are even “matched” with a child at the final stage, only to have the adoption fall through at the last minute. These delays can be heartbreaking and frustrating for parents, so it’s important to acknowledge these challenges.
- It may require taking time away from work. Employers should be aware that the adoption process may require employees to miss anywhere from days to weeks of work. There are a ton of responsibilities that come with adoption, such as home inspections, birth mother visits, court dates, and travel. Understanding these time commitments and showing your employees that you support their decision can make it easier for them — otherwise they may feel hesitant to share their adoption plans with their employer given the volatile timeline.
Starting a family is a topic that should always be approached with sensitivity in the workplace. However, that doesn’t mean the subject should be avoided altogether! Instead, there are many things you can do to make sure your employees don’t feel isolated during their adoption process. Here are a few guidelines to help you get started:
- Be mindful of language. Words matter. They have the power to make people feel loved and supported, or lonely and marginalized. If you’re not sure how to talk about the adoption process with your employees, there are tons of resources that can help! At Carrot, we put together the “Defining the Modern Language of Fertility Care” guide to help you communicate in an accurate and inclusive way when it comes to these topics, including adoption.
- Don’t make assumptions. Every individual and couple has a different reason for choosing adoption. For some, it’s their preference to become a parent via adoption over sexual intercourse or fertility care. For others, the decision to adopt comes either during or after an infertility experience. Regardless of the reason, employers and colleagues should be considerate about not making assumptions about the employee’s experience — instead, take the time to learn and understand everyone’s unique journey.
Take another look at your benefits offerings
One of the best ways you can support employees going through the adoption process is to re-evaluate your benefits. Not only is adoption a financially burdensome experience, but it can also be incredibly stressful and confusing to navigate. Offering assistance in some of these areas may help make your employee’s journey much more enjoyable. Here are a few relevant benefits to consider in the future:
- Adoption assistance. Of course, the most relevant benefit employers can offer is adoption assistance! These benefits typically include some combination of financial assistance and information and referral services. SHRM found that 10 percent of employers surveyed offered some form of adoption assistance. As a result, these employers have found that the employee goodwill derived from offering this benefit is significant because their company is viewed as being supportive of adoptive families. This perception strengthens the company culture among both users and nonusers of the benefit.
- Family financial planning. Most companies offer resources on how to financially plan for retirement or a home mortgage. But starting a family can be extremely costly as well. Adopting a child from foster care may cost about $5,000, domestic private adoptions can cost more than $40,000, and international adoptions can cost up to $50,000. So you may want to consider offering financial planning resources specifically for that life milestone. This helps create a culture that encourages informed employees and sets up all employees for success, regardless of sex, age, sexual orientation, marital status, gender identity, or family planning choices.
- Paid leave. Finally, adoptive parents are much less likely to get paid leave because they don’t qualify for short-term disability, which is how most employees take paid leave. This can be challenging given that having that time off is crucial for the emotional and psychological health of both the child and the parent, not to mention it’s necessary for a smooth transition. While adoptive parents can technically take unpaid leave through FMLA, you may want to consider having another paid leave program in place that will allow employees to take time off without having to dip into their own vacation time.
The adoption process can be an exciting, but also stressful time for your employees. The more you can do to support them during this time – starting with some of the points we discussed in this post – the better their experience will be! At Carrot, we offer this type of support for every process, from egg freezing to adoption to surrogacy and more. If you’re interested in learning more about Carrot and how we can create a customized plan for your organization, let us know.
This is the second article in a three-part series about how to best support your employees as they undergo a range of treatments and processes to start their own families. Keep an eye out for our next post, which will focus on how to support your employees who are using gestational carrier services.