Paid Time Off for Adoptive Families

News anchor Erin Kiernan is lobbying for equal paid time off.

Shelley Skuster February 23, 2015
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A long-time television news anchor is advocating for some major changes with paid time off for people who grow their families through adoption.

Erin Kiernan, a birth mom and hopeful adoptive parent, is a full-time television news anchor at the NBC affiliate in Des Moines, Iowa. For more information on her push, click here.

She’s helped spearhead bills in the Iowa legislature that she believes are a step in the right direction for adoptive parents to be treated equally in the workplace.

“If a company offers a woman paid maternity leave via short-term disability, an adoptive mother must be treated the same way,” said Kiernan.

Kiernan believes ALL parents should get paid leave.

What frequently happens in Iowa, however, is that adoptive parents aren’t eligible for paid maternity leave since they have no medical reason to be off work. Without a medical condition, adoptive parents do not meet the eligibility requirements for short-term disability, which is how many working mothers are paid under their maternity leave.

“Ultimately, I would like to see all families enjoying the same benefits,” said Kiernan.

“Many people don’t have the support they need because they work for small companies or they’re working minimum wage jobs. I want to see a more level playing field,” she said.

Research shows how important it is for children and parents to bond and form new routines.

Without a standard for paid time off, many adoptive parents in Iowa are forced to head back to work days after a child is placed in their home.

Adoptive parents should get paid leave because it’s the best thing for children. It’s also the best thing for employees, which means it’s good for employers,” said Kiernan.

There are a limited number of employers who offer a few days or weeks of paid leave for adoptive parents–some even offer reimbursement of a few thousand dollars to help with adoption-related expenses–but there is no standard for maternity leave for adoptive parents in Iowa.

That’s why Kiernan is publicly supporting bills filed in the Iowa House (HF 116) and Senate (SF 225). Both bills state that if an employer offers paid maternity leave through short-term disability, that employer should be required to offer the same option for adoptive parents.

The focus on adoptive parents doesn’t diminish the need for a public policy overhaul.

While Kiernan is focused on fighting for adoptive parents right now, she also believes it’s time for the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to be overhauled.

“It [FMLA] was a huge step forward when it was passed in 1993, but I also had big hair, Janet Jackson was at the top of the charts, and Jurassic Park was a hit movie. Times change,” she said.

Kiernan asks for public support.

As a birth mom, Kiernan understands the importance of children forming healthy relationships with their parents from a unique perspective.

She has an open adoption with her son, David, and his family.

In an effort to raise awareness of the inequity with paid time off, Kiernan has established a Facebook Page called, Equality for Adoptive Families.

She says she’d like to see Iowans contact their state lawmakers with personal stories and a show of support for HF 116 and SF 225.

“Anyone and everyone should contact their members of Congress with these concerns,” she said.

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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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