Adoptive Moms Need Maternity Leave Too!

Most employers don't offer equal maternity leave benefits to adoptive parents.

Shelley Skuster January 15, 2018
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It was 11:00 on a Saturday morning when I called my boss at a local television station to tell him the news: I had a daughter!

After months of background checks, fingerprints, and home study paperwork, my husband and I were chosen as parents of a beautiful baby girl born hundreds of miles away.

We threw our suitcases together, loaded up an empty car seat, and caught the soonest flights out of town to meet her.

“Congratulations!” he said. My colleagues were thrilled to see our adoption plans come to fruition. Even the local TV viewers sent encouraging emails upon hearing the news.

But then the phone calls began.

My Human Resources representative needed to know when I was going back to work.

Because I was two weeks shy of my 1-year anniversary at my employer, I was not eligible for unpaid time off through the Family Medical and Leave Act (FMLA), and since I didn’t physically give birth, I wasn’t able to apply for leave under short-term disability. But because I was under contract, which is typical for news reporters in the TV business, I had an obligation to report to work.

I remember holding my baby in our hotel room – a little girl I had just met – and wondering how I could ever leave her.

We had no daycare lined up for her. In fact, she was too young to be enrolled, so we scrambled to flex my husband’s work schedule and found family members who generously offered to fill in the gaps under the less-than-ideal circumstances.

By the time we arrived back home as a brand new family of three, our daughter was 1 week old. I used the remaining “vacation” hours I had, and by the time she was two weeks old, I had no choice but to return to work.

While I loved my career, the summer of 2013 was the most heartbreaking, exhausting, and infuriating season in my journalism career.

I watched colleagues take time off work after giving birth; they were able to have a sense of job security, financial stability, and time to adjust into their new motherhood role – all things I had desperately missed out on with my child because I had adopted her and not given birth to her.

In the following years, I’d learn I wasn’t alone.

In fact, most employers to this day still do not extend the same maternity leave benefits to adoptive parents as they do toward biological parents.

Here’s what you can do to help:

Connect with your local Human Resources representative and inquire about what policy your employer has in place for adoptive parents. If there’s not a paid parental leave policy for adoptive parents, advocate for one. Click here for an easy fillable template to send your employer.

Contact your elected officials and educate them on this issue. To find your U.S. Senators and Representatives, click here.

Contact your state lawmakers. Depending on when they’re in session, now may be an opportune time to reach out to your local legislators about drafting a bill that would advocate for equal parental leave for adoptive families.

As you connect with your employer and elected officials, consider including the following information from the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption:

-All parents deserve time to bond with their children.

-Less than one half of 1% of eligible employees use adoption benefits. They are some of the most cost-effective benefits an employer can offer.

-Employers who offer family-friendly benefits will increase employee retention, loyalty, and productivity.

And finally, when you do see change, take note. Send a letter of appreciation when your employer and lawmakers listen. It’s important for adoptive parents to be extended the same benefits as birth parents in the workplace. It’s good for business, and it’s good for families.

Are you ready to pursue a domestic infant adoption? Click here to connect with a compassionate, experienced adoption professional who can help get you started on the journey of a lifetime.

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Shelley Skuster

Shelley is a former award-winning television journalist who traded in suit coats and red lipstick for a messy bun and yoga pants. She's a freelance writer who stays at home with her three daughters who are all ((gasp)) under the age of three and came to her via adoption and birth. She's the woman behind the blog Shelley Writes, and she can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

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