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Richmond Times Dispatch story on Employee Benefits for Adoption

One great incentive to become an adoptive family is that many businesses offer paid time off and financial assistance or reimbursements.
Read about it here as we celebrate CHS in the news again. Thanks to Richmond Times-Dispatchreporter Katie Demeria; great job Nadine Marsh-Carter!

Here’s a link to Katie’s article.

Or read it here:

More companies offering employees time off for adoptions and other benefits

In the 2000s, when Andrew Lang (left) and Fonda Lang (right) adopted Natalie and Trevor, few companies offered benefits to adoptive families. But Fonda Lang’s employer, the accounting firm Keiter, now has a two-week parental leave policy that morphed out of her proposal for benefits.

Posted: Saturday, December 3, 2016 10:30 pm

By KATIE DEMERIA Richmond Times-Dispatch

Fonda Lang remembers the exact moment when she saw her daughter for the first time.

Her husband had joined her at work because they knew the picture was coming via email.

“We opened it together, got to see her, and the description they gave of her personality was perfect,” Lang remembers. “She was 15 months old and they said she’s quite a jokester, she likes to play and hide, that she likes books.”

Nearly a decade later, she said the description is still true of her daughter.

Lang and her husband, who live in Henrico County, adopted their children, Natalie and Trevor. At the time, Lang’s employer — the Henrico-based accounting firm Keiter — had no benefits for employees adopting children.

In the 2000s, when the Langs adopted Natalie and Trevor, few companies offered benefits to adoptive families.

That meant Lang’s only options at the time would have been to take time off through the Family and Medical Leave Act, or FMLA, or cobble together time through vacation and sick leave so she could be home with her young children.

But Lang took the situation into her own hands. She researched adoption benefit policies and approached Keiter with her suggestion of offering paid time off to adoptive families.

“I presented it to the firm leadership, and was ecstatic that they accepted it,” Lang said. “It really validated that the way I’m forming my family is equal to the other families that are formed.”

Keiter now has a two-week parental leave policy, which Lauren Andrews, human resources manager with the firm, said morphed out of Lang’s proposal.

About 20 percent of employers now offer paid adoption leave, according to the 2016 Employee Benefits report by the Society for Human Resource Management. More companies are offering employees benefits to lessen the financial and emotional toll the experience of adopting can take.

The argument over paid parental leave has been raging for several years, with some advocacy groups questioning why the U.S. does not have a policy ensuring parents have time off when they bring their children home.

According to the Pew Research Center, when compared with 41 other developed nations such as Estonia, Japan, Portugal and Chile, the U.S. is the only country that does not mandate any paid leave for new parents.

But even fewer adoptive parents are assured by their employers that they will have time with their children when they bring them home.

Henrico resident Louellen Brumgard’s only option when she adopted her daughter in 2004 was to take off time through FMLA because that is the only option her employer at the time, the Commonwealth of Virginia, offers. She had to use all her available vacation time and sick leave, which she said did not feel fair.

“Every family needs bonding time, but especially when you first factor in the reality that the adoption process can be stressful to a family,” said Nadine Marsh-Carter, CEO of the Children’s Home Society, a Richmond-based adoption agency.

“It really makes a difference. As an adoptive parent, you’ve gone through all this unknown, and you just want them to love you as much as you love them before they come home.”

***

Several Richmond-area employers do offer benefits to their employees who adopt that many across the country do not.

Capital One Financial Corp. and HHHunt were included on the list of the best adoption-friendly workplaces of 2016, compiled by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Capital One offers six weeks of paid time off for adoptive families, as well as $10,000 in financial assistance — a perk that few companies offer but that helps with the sometimes massive costs associated with adopting a child.

As of 2015, CarMax offered $4,000 in financial reimbursement for each adopted child.

In addition to offering four weeks of paid leave to adoptive families, builder HHHunt provides $7,500 in maximum financial assistance to adoptive families.

Offering adoption benefits to his employees was especially important to HHHunt’s CEO, Harry H. “Buck” Hunt IV, because he was adopted.

Hunt said that when he took over the company in 2013, his human resources department suggested offering benefits to parents who adopt.

“I think my first reaction was surprise that we didn’t do that already. It just felt like a no-brainer to me,” he said. “From my perspective, I would like to see this become more of the normal standard benefit package that companies around the U.S. offer.”

The costs HHHunt sustained after providing adoption benefits were minimal, he added. Anyone who has children, whether via natural birth or through adoption, has to spend time away from work, so the company is already prepared for that reality.

And the ultimate cost to the company is very little compared with the benefit provided to the employee, Hunt added.

“The adoption process now is much more arduous than it was back when (my parents) adopted me,” he said. “I know it means so much to parents who are able to adopt to finally bring that baby home.

“All parents deserve the same treatment.”

***

Brumgard and her husband, Bill Melton, spent two weeks in China when they adopted their daughter, Emma. She was 15 months old and living in an orphanage.

By cobbling together her vacation time and sick leave, Brumgard was able to take off two months.

Her husband did the same and took off one month.

They took their time separately so Emma would be home with a parent for three months after she got home.

That was especially necessary because while Emma was in an orphanage, she slept with another baby in her crib, so she did not want to sleep by herself when her parents brought her home.

“When I was home, I slept with her, and I remember the first night I did that she actually laid across me … because she was afraid that I would leave,” Brumgard said.

Brumgard slept with Emma during the week, and her husband slept with her on the weekend so Brumgard could catch up on her lost sleep. Then when her husband stayed home with Emma for a month, they switched.

“We were really thankful and lucky that … we didn’t have to take leave without pay,” Brumgard said. “That might not be the case for other families.

“For me, I don’t really consider that to be a perk of a job, I consider that to really be (the way) the United States should take care of families.”

Deborah J. “Debbie” Johnston — who Gov. Terry McAuliffe appointed Virginia’s Adoption Champion in 2014 — said parents who adopt are often in special need of bonding time when they bring the children home.

In Emma’s situation, she was used to a different sleep pattern than she had at her home, so it required more time from Brumgard and her husband to get her acclimated.

For other families who may adopt older children, Johnston pointed out, that bonding time is even more important.

“They’re working with kids that are coming out of, usually, not great situations, so they’re trying to bond and heal,” said Johnston, the founder and president of Care Advantage Inc., a Chesterfield County-based home health care business.

“I think they need six months, because it’s not like you’re getting a new little pink or blue bundle; you’re getting a child that’s been through a lot.”

Marsh-Carter of the Children’s Home Society argues further in favor of parental leave, saying it is good for the children, as well.

“It really has a tangible benefit for the child,” she said. “I adopted, and (the children) needed to understand that we are mommy and daddy, and we needed to understand that they’d had a loss — the natural loss of no longer being with your biological family, and then going to a foster family, bonding with them, and there’s another loss there.

“They’re learning to love and respond and be empathetic just by the love the adoptive family gives them.”

kdemeria@timesdispatch.com(804) 649-6813

Twitter: @katiedemeria

Posted in Richmond Area Business News on Saturday, December 3, 2016 10:30 pm