Most families have nine months to prepare for the arrival of a child, but Andrea Danes and her husband had less than a week to prepare their homes – and their lives – for the arrival of their 11-year-old daughter. year.
“When we brought him into our home, it was literally a decision that was made overnight,” says Danes. Their family was taking a child into foster care, a process that differs from the traditional family planning journey. Growing a family through foster care comes with unique challenges, and the traditional support and benefits are often lacking for those who choose this path.
“There was no time off to bring a foster child or a child in guardianship into your home,” says Danes. “My husband and I both worked full time, so we had to enroll him in school, set him up and go buy bunk beds in the evenings and on weekends.”
There are currently more than 400,000 foster children in 218,927 licensed foster homes in the United States, according to the most recent data from the US Census Bureau. And even if only 2% of Americans have actually adopted it, the interest is great: more than a third of American families have thought about it.
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But the growing interest in alternative family planning options has had little impact on the integration of workplace benefits – in a 2019 benefits research report, SHRM found that only 10% of employers surveyed offered some form of adoption assistance and less than half offered paid adoption leave to parents.
Today, Danes is the global human services leader of the Ernst & Young professional services network – which provides benefits to foster and adoptive families, including 16 weeks of PTO for employees welcoming a child per birth, adoption, surrogacy, foster care, or legal guardianship and who have been with the business for at least one year, plus a lifetime maximum of $50,000 to cover expenses related to infertility, surrogacy and adoption. However, at the time, her former employer was not as inclusive.
“The benefits of time off should be the same whether you’re bringing a child into foster care, adopting a child, or having a baby,” she says. “There’s a broad recognition here at EY that you need this time to adjust your home and your family, but when we brought in Grace there was nothing like it. We’ve been successful and I think we did well, but it could have been easier.
These leaves should meet the unique needs of foster and adoptive parents, says Rita Soronen, president and CEO of the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. It’s not just a matter of time, but the flexibility to use it when needed.
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If a family is adopting or adopting through a foster family, the family may need to take the child to medical appointments or set up needs before the adoption. school. New families may also have to coordinate visits with extended families who are still in the child’s life, Soronen says.
“[The adopted family] may need time off in one or two hour increments instead of two weeks of paid time off,” she says. “So it really comes down to looking at the particular circumstances.”
Another one important benefit for this population provides financial assistance and health insurance support. While many companies often offer an average of $10,961 per child to help cover legal fees and adoption costs, things like a grocery allowance or money to invest in furniture could make a difference. big difference, says Danes.
Additionally, having a child covered by health insurance the same way a biological child would be can help reduce out-of-pocket expenses. When Grace joined the Danes family, they were unable to put her under either labor parent’s insurance policy because her foster status prevented her from being listed. as an official member of the family unit. Instead, they had to turn to third-party providers like Medicaid for help.
“There were a handful of times we ended up taking him to providers and paying out of pocket because Medicaid didn’t cover it,” Danessays said. “Having access to real health insurance through an employer would make a big difference.”
Rachel Lauren, senior director of people and culture at the nonprofit Dream Corps, has fostered a total of seven children — three of whom she adopted — and was the first person in her organization to use their benefits. in foster care and adoption. Lauren wasn’t the only one who needed them, she was just the only one who knew they existed.
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“They had a whole system where they gave financial aid and time off and our organization was unaware of that policy,” she says. “Organizations that have something in their systems need to talk about it more and need to actually put it into practice in the same breath.”
As the definition of family continues to grow, the benefits of adoption and foster care affect a wide range of employees. From same-sex couples to couples with medical infertility, having a business that is willing to engage in different methods of family building and planning is not just a want, it’s a need. And when businesses fail to evolve to facilitate this process, it can prevent couples from realizing their dream of starting a family.
When Danes spoke to families about becoming foster parents or taking guardianship of the children, the concerns or hesitations were never about raising those children – they were always about how they would find the ways to acclimatize their families and homes to the currency. To supply more robust support can help children and parents to make their life complete.
“If working parents knew they would have a four to six week window where they could adjust their existing family, do the logistics, do the paperwork, they would pick up where they left off. [at work] with a new family in place,” she says. “I’m sure it would greatly increase the number of people considering fostering.”