Employer-Provided Adoption Benefits

Employer-provided adoption benefits for adoptive families continue to be a growing trend. In 1990, a survey by Hewitt Associates found that only 12 percent of employers surveyed offered some kind of adoption benefits; by 1995, the proportion had climbed to 23 percent. In the 2004 Hewitt survey of 936 major U.S. employers, the percentage grew to 39 percent, with an average maximum reimbursement of $3,879 for adoption expenses. In Hewitt’s most recent survey report (2008-2009), more than half of the 940 large employers said that they offer some type of adoption assistance.

As Adam Pertman says in his book Adoption Nation, companies are finding that “providing adoption benefits not only displays social responsibility and an ability to respond to changing conditions but also makes for more satisfied workers.” Pertman also says that employer-provided adoption benefits can be a relatively cheap investment for employers since only about 0.1 percent of employees with available adoption benefits use them.

What Types of Adoption Benefits Do Employers Offer?

Adoption benefits are usually similar to benefits available to new biological parents and fall into three general categories: information resources, financial assistance and parental leave. Employers may offer one or more of these types of benefits during a single adoption.

Information Resources - Resources made available to employees may include:

  • Referrals to licensed adoption agencies, support groups, and organizations
  • Access to an adoption specialist to answer questions about the process
  • Help with special situations, such as a special needs adoption

Employers that offer this type of benefit may contract with a human resources consulting firm to provide these services to employees.

Financial Assistance - Financial benefits take different forms, such as:

  • A lump sum payment for an adoption, usually between $1,000 and $15,000
  • Payment of certain fees related to an adoption
  • Partial reimbursement to employees for expenses

Typical reimbursement plans cover 80 percent of certain itemized expenses up to an established ceiling (about $4,000 on average). Some employers reimburse at a higher rate for adoptions of children with special needs.

Most frequently, employer-provided financial assistance covers public or private agency fees, court costs and legal fees. Employers also might help with foreign adoption fees, medical costs, temporary foster care charges, transportation costs, pregnancy costs for a birth mother and counseling fees associated with placement and transition.

Some employers pay benefits per adoption, while others pay per child adopted. In most cases, employer-provided adoption benefits are paid after the adoption is finalized, though some employers may pay when the child is placed or as expenses are incurred.

Parental Leave - In many cases, employers are required to grant parental leave to new adoptive parents. Federal law requires employers with 50 or more employees to offer both mothers and fathers up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave upon the birth or adoption of a child. The law ensures that employees have job security and health benefits during the leave period. Read about the Family and Medical Leave Act at the U.S. Department of Labor website for more information.

Some employers allow employees to take more than 12 weeks of unpaid leave and use accumulated paid leave, like vacation or sick leave, to extend their total leave. Some employers may offer paid leave for employees who adopt a child or may be bound by union contracts that have provisions for adoption leave, as well.

In addition to Federal law, many states require employers to offer parental leave to adoptive parents. To find out about a particular state, check your state’s adoption policy handbook or contact the state’s adoption program manager, whose information can be found in Information Gateway’s online National Foster Care and Adoption Directory.

Eligibility and Conditions

Eligibility for employer adoption benefits may depend on employment status (e.g. full-time versus part-time employees), length of employment or participation in a company-sponsored health plan.

The type of adoption also can affect the employer-provided adoption benefits. For example, some employers do not provide benefits for stepchild adoption or specify the age of the child being adopted. Others offer enhanced benefits for the adoption of a child with special needs.

Employers Offering Adoption Benefits

To find out if your company offers some form of adoption benefits, ask your human resource or personnel department.

The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption encourages employer benefits for adoption. Its website includes:

  • List of employers that offer adoption benefits like financial reimbursement and paid leave
  • An annual list of the nation’s “100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces”
  • A free toolkit and technical assistance for companies wishing to propose or establish an adoption benefits policy

The Holt International website includes an extensive list of employers that provide adoption benefits as well.

This information is collected from:

Child Welfare Information Gateway. (2011). Employer-provided adoption benefits. Washington DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Children’s Bureau. <http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/f_benefi.pdf>.

Pertman, Adam. Adoption Nation. Boston: The Harvard Common Press, 2011. Print.

“Trends in HR and Employee Benefits: Employer-Provided Adoption Benefits.” November 2009.





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