Adoption Benefits (Glossary)
Employee adoption benefits vary but they are becoming more and more available. In 1990, one study found only 12 percent of employers offered benefits to adoptive parents: by 2004 the proportion had increased to 39 percent, with an average maximum reimbursement of $3,879 for adoption expenses.
Companies offer adoption benefits for different reasons, including maintaining employee productivity, employee retention, presenting a positive public image, and to ensure equity in benefits for all employees. Some companies have a more personal incentive. For example, Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's International, was adopted. Wendy's offers employees time off for adoption, financial assistance, and other benefits. In addition, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption works to promote adoption awareness.
Adoption benefits can be grouped into three main categories: information resources, financial assistance, and parental leave. Many employers will offer one or more of these benefits with each adoption.
Financial benefits can vary in both type and extent. Some employers offer a lump sum payment, usually after the adoption is finalized. Others will pay certain fees or will reimburse at a higher rate for a child with special needs. A typical adoption benefit will include reimbursement of certain itemized expenses at 80 percent of cost, up to a pre-established ceiling (on average, about $4,000.)
Parental leave adoption benefits may be covered under the Family and Medical Leave Act, in which employers with 50 or more employees are required to offer mothers and fathers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for the birth or adoption of a child.
Some companies will allow parents to combine paid leave (sick time, vacation) with unpaid leave to extend their time away.
You can also research if your company has a legal plan that would cover the legal expenses.
In most cases, adoption benefits will have some limitations, such as being offered only to full-time employees or only those who have been with the company a certain length of time. For example, Wendy's International covers eligible adoption expenses up to a maximum of $4,000 per adoption for employees who have completed one year of service and participate in the company's Group Insurance Program. The reimbursement rate increases to $6,000 (maximum) for a child with special needs. Financial assistance covers specific expenses: licensed adoption agency fees, legal costs, state-required home study, etc. Paid leave of absence is available, with the amount determined by the employee's length of service.
If your company has an adoption assistance program, make sure you check the rules of eligibility – you may have to be a full time or salaried employee to be eligible. Also, be sure to check for a length of service requirement and find out what expenses the company will reimburse. Determine if the company has an age limit for eligible adopted children. Some companies may only offer assistance with medical bills associated with the adoption.
If both parents work for the same company, you should ask if the financial assistance applies to each parent or only one.
No Adoption Benefits?
If your company doesn’t offer adoption assistance, talk to the head of the benefits department (or another company executive) and suggest that they consider this benefit. Who knows – by the time your adoption is completed, they may have the program in place. If you want some guidance on how to convince your company to offer adoption benefits, the National Adoption Center, along with the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, have created two tool kits to help encourage employers to assist employees with adoption. The tool kits are:
To receive a free copy of these toolkits, call the National Adoption Center at 877-777-4222 or email them at info@AdoptionFriendlyWorkplace.org.
If you own your own business, consult a tax advisor to determine if you may be able to give yourself up to $5,000 of adoption assistance tax free from your business.
A one time adoption subsidy is available to members of the U.S. Armed Forces. Check with the appropriate base personnel to determine the current benefit level or call 303-333-0845. If you are on active duty in the military, you are eligible for reimbursement of expenses up to $2,000 for the adoption of a single child and up to $5,000 per family per year.
There is one caveat: The adoption must have been arranged through a non-profit agency. Paid after the adoption is finalized, this benefit is not doubled if both parents are in the military. Fees that can be reimbursed include agency fees, legal fees, placement fees, and medical expenses. Travel expenses were not originally covered when this program was introduced, but they may be covered now. Military parents can exercise an option to have children that are placed with them covered by their military medical program.