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Need adoption assistance? Check with your employer

It used to be that parents looking to adopt faced an uphill battle with their employers. The maternity and paternity leave benefits were meager or non-existent, as was financial support.

But over the past three decades, that reality has been shifting. An oft-cited survey conducted by Aon Hewitt found that 12% of major companies offered adoption benefits in 1990. By 2015, that number had grown to more than 50%.

Generally, adoption assistance functions as an extension of a company’s overall parental benefits. Often, these programs aren’t well publicized due to the fact that only a small fraction of Americans adopt. But adoption assistance provides a vital avenue for many parents who cannot afford to adopt a child otherwise.

To do our part to increase awareness, we reached out to several Charlotte employers to find out what benefits they offer and how the programs contribute to their workplace culture at large.

An international life-saver

Adoption can be a complex and challenging process. Doing it overseas can be even more difficult. Joe Sturgis and his wife, Katie, discovered that firsthand after they hosted 14-year-old Devid. They knew they couldn’t let Devid go back to Latvia and become another orphan statistic. They were compelled to act. And Joe’s employer, Bank of America, had his back.

As part of its benefits package, Bank of America offered adoption assistance. So, when Joe and Katie applied for adoption in January 2018, Joe was eligible for paid paternity leave and adoption reimbursement.

Paid leave supports adoption in a number of ways. It provides much-needed bonding time for growing families. The child also has time to adjust to his or her new life and meet new relatives. And with paid time off, parents can focus solely on providing their new children with a warm welcome.

In Joe’s case, paid leave was instrumental in completing the adoption. The Sturgis family had to travel back-and-forth to Latvia several times. With the leave BofA afforded him, Joe was able to attend court hearings, accompany Devid to the U.S. Embassy and live with him for a required three weeks. Today, Bank of America provides eligible U.S. employees with 16 weeks of paid leave. Joe used 10.

Financial assistance was another big help for the Sturgis family. Bank of America reimburses a lifetime maximum of $20,000 for eligible adoption or surrogacy expenses. And for Joe, this was a blessing. In total, the adoption cost the family around $50,000, between application processing, legal expenses, travel and other costs.

But it was all worth it. Today, Devid is part of a happy family of five, with two younger brothers. He loves soccer and has worked hard to learn English.

“We could not have saved the life of this young man without all the resources BofA has provided,” Joe said. “The money was a huge help to our family and relieved a lot of stress, and the time off from work to bring Devid into our family was priceless.”

While Bank of America has offered adoption benefits since 2003, the company recently expanded its commitment to adoptive families. In March 2019, the company partnered with Maven to connect new and future parents with virtual appointments, guidance and other resources to aid their transition into parenthood and returning to work. The program is available to those enrolled in one of the company’s U.S. national medical plans and is part of an overall effort to support families in all walks of life. The company has 208,000 employees around the world.

“At Bank of America, we believe that offering inclusive family planning benefits to all employees is critical to our commitment of being a great place to work,” Chris Fabro, Global Head of Compensation and Benefits, said in a statement.

A long track record

While adoption assistance programs are not yet ubiquitous, several other companies have been pioneers in this space over the years. Duke Energy and Vanguard, an investment brokerage firm, are two Charlotte-area companies with long-established assistance programs.

Vanguard has provided adoption benefits for more than 15 years. It provides up to six weeks of paid bonding time to eligible adoptive parents and reimburses up to $14,080 of eligible expenses. The company currently has about 17,600 employees, known internally as “crew members,” and from that crew have come several success stories. One such story is this one from a Vanguard employee who has used the company’s assistance program twice.

“I appreciate that Vanguard values employees holistically and recognizes families can be formed in various ways, not only in traditional ones” the employee wrote. “By supporting adoptive parents through the Adoption Assistance Program and Parental Leave Policy, Vanguard makes it possible for more people to choose adoption. For the crew members who have room in their hearts and homes to be a family to a child who needs one, I hope they will use Vanguard’s benefits and any other resources to adopt.”

Duke Energy began offering adoption assistance benefits back in 1992. Today, the company, with approximately 28,400 employees, provides up to six weeks of paid parental leave and reimburses up to $5,000 of covered expenses.

Company spokesperson Dave Scanzoni said that 26 requests for financial assistance were made since the start of 2018, and paid parental leave was provided for nearly 40 adoptions since 2017.

“Duke Energy is committed to supporting the balance between work and family,” Scanzoni said. “The adoption assistance program was established consistent with that commitment, to provide financial assistance to employees beyond paid time off in connection with adoption. These options continue to support the balance between work and family and help the company to attract and retain a skilled workforce.”

Plan ahead

Whether you’re interested in adopting someday or you already have a plan in motion, check with your company’s human resources department about adoption assistance. The results may surprise you.

For even more resources, check out the programming we offer through Adoption Support Alliance. Whatever you need in the world of adoption, we’re here to help.


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