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Inside

  • Adoption Benefits Plans
  • Why Would a Company Offer Benefits?
  • Who is Eligible for Benefits?
  • How Do Plans Actually Work?
  • Adoption Leave
  • Typical Company Plans
Laura Michaels, 33, has been a secretary at the Campbell Soup Company in Camden, New Jersey, and her husband, Jim, decided to adopt a child. Because Laura's sister has Down syndrome, she and her husband wanted to provide a home for a child with "special needs."

Soon after completing their adoption study, they were introduced to Gary, a 10-year-old boy with cerebral palsy and learning disabilities. Gary had been waiting for 3 years, since his parents relinquished him, for someone to give him a permanent home.

Laura and Jim wanted to adopt Gary, but knew that both of them would have to take time off from their jobs to help Gary adjust.

Fortunately, Laura's employer offered adoption benefits. Not only would her company reimburse her for up to $2,000 of any adoption-related expenses, it would give her a combination of paid and unpaid leave.

Campbell Soup is one of a growing number of companies in this country that offers some kind of adoption benefit to its employees. In some cases, it is a financial stipend to cover some or all adoption costs. In others, it is a policy that allows for adoption leave (similar to maternity or paternity leave) so that the child and parents can have time to adjust to each other.

Today, 2 million childbearing-age couples and 1 million single persons are interested in adopting children. Adoption, once the province of infertile couples seeking healthy infants, has changed. Adopters include many single, first-time parents and couples who choose to add to their families through adoption. Many of the children being adopted are older, have disabilities, or are brothers and sisters who want homes together. The children come from the United States as well as from a variety of foreign countries.

As adoption has gained in acceptance as a way to begin or expand a family, employees and employers have become more interested in adoption benefits. Indeed, many prospective parents, especially those who are single, could not adopt without the support of their employers.

Laura says that she and her husband could probably not have considered adoption, especially of a child like Gary who needs special attention, if not for the financial and emotional support of her employer.

"The money is wonderful," says Laura, "but equally as important was knowing that my company was behind me, that I could take a reasonable amount of time off from my job and that it would be waiting for me when I was ready to return in two months."

While maternity benefits are standard in most health care programs, adoption benefits have a long way to go. Yet, they are just as much needed.

In addition to needing financial help, Laura suggests that adopters need to know that their employer is committed to family life and is willing to allow the time necessary for a child and parents to establish and build a relationship.

In 1990, a survey conducted by Hewitt Associates reported that 98 of 837 major U. S. employers (12 percent) provide employees with some type of adoption assistance. The numbers may not seem large; they show, nevertheless, a significant increase over previous years and a growing recognition of the higher priority the workplace gives to family concerns.

Women in the workplace particularly welcome corporate support for their decision to adopt. Traditionally, women have suffered both emotionally and financially after the birth or adoption of a child. A recent study by the Institute for Women's Policy Research reveals that working women who bear or adopt children lose earnings of $31 billion annually. Those who have no leave time benefits available incurred an additional $607 million loss in earnings.

Credits: Child Welfare Information Gateway (http://www.childwelfare.gov)

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