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FMLA & Adoption: Do Birth Parents Get Maternity Leave?

What to Know About Giving a Baby Up for Adoption and Maternity Leave

Placing a baby for adoption is an exhausting process — emotionally, mentally and physically. Like many new mothers, birth mothers deserve a chance to recuperate from their delivery and adoption processes. However, maternity leave may seem a bit more complicated for a woman who has no child to care for immediately after birth.

“Giving a baby up” for adoption at birth and maternity leave are not mutually exclusive. A birth mother has just as much right as any mother raising her child to protected leave from work after childbirth — although she may have to advocate for it herself.

Below, you can find more information about maternity leave and adoption. You can also contact an adoption specialist at 1-800-ADOPTION to learn about other available financial assistance before and after your delivery.

FMLA & Adoption: How It Works

A woman who delivers a baby has a lot to cope with after childbirth. Not only will she need to recover from the physical aspects of having a baby, but she will likely also be exhausted mentally from the long nine months she has had. If a woman has placed a child for adoption, those emotional aspects may be much stronger.

So, do people take time off work after giving a baby up for adoption? Yes, they do.

The good news is that “giving a baby” up for adoption does not eliminate maternity leave for a birth mother. Maternity leave in the United States is regulated by the Family Medical Leave Act of 1993 (FMLA), which protects a woman’s right to unpaid maternity leave, as long as she meets certain requirements. In situations of “giving up a child,” FMLA does still apply.

Maternity leave, also known as “maternity disability” or “medical leave,” is provided by this federal act to American workers. In order to receive unpaid time off to recover from childbirth, a woman will need to have held her job for at least a year and worked at least 1,250 hours. FMLA also only applies to companies with more than 50 employees.

In most cases, maternity leave allows six weeks for a normal vaginal delivery and close to eight weeks for an uncomplicated C-section.

However, not all birth mothers are eligible for maternity leave — and, of those who are, not all of them take their full maternity leave. In fact, many women feel physically well enough to return to work within a week, as their recovery time is not impacted by caring for a newborn baby.

Unfortunately, many mothers — both birth and adoptive — find themselves cutting short their maternity leave because of financial reasons. Because many companies do not provide paid maternity leave, new parents are sometimes forced to return to work early to make ends meet for their family. While adoption does offer some financial benefits to birth parents after delivery (more on that below), the lack of payment during maternity leave inspires many to take a short leave (or no leave at all), even if they are entitled to one.

How to Advocate for Your Maternity Leave

If “giving a baby up” for adoption at birth and maternity leave are on your mind, it’s important that you speak with your employer as early as possible. Because employers’ policies vary so much, you won’t know what medical leave options are available to you until you do.

Talking about pregnancy and childbirth with your employer can sometimes be awkward, especially if you work in an industry in which pregnant women and mothers are discriminated against. You may be worried about losing your job if you announce your pregnancy. While there is a law to protect you from that, it’s unfortunately not unusual for employers to reduce the number of shifts and other benefits for a female employee upon learning of her imminent departure. Pregnancy discrimination is real, and it’s something to consider.

If you are unsure whether you are allowed maternity leave under FMLA for your adoption, schedule a meeting with your HR representative. Before this meeting, prepare a maternity leave letter, just in case, and be ready to address complicated issues, like covering your responsibilities while you are gone. Most importantly, you’ll want to come in with a set number of weeks you anticipate taking off work.

Don’t be afraid to discuss your adoption plans with your employer, even if it seems uncomfortable. If you explain your decision, they will understand where you are coming from — and perhaps be happy to hear you may return earlier than a woman raising a child after delivery.

If you need advice on how to talk with your employer about FMLA for parents “giving up” a child for adoption, you can always contact our adoption specialists.

How American Adoptions Can Help After Childbirth

Sometimes, prospective birth mothers are not eligible for maternity leave. Other times, because their leave is unpaid and their employers will not hold their jobs, they choose to quit before delivering, with the goal of getting another job after the baby is born. If you are in one of these situations, you may face financial difficulties.

Fortunately, if you work with American Adoptions, you can be provided financial assistance before, during and after your adoption process. Our adoption specialists will make sure your adoption and medical costs always come free to you, and you may even be eligible for extra living expenses, too. While these living expenses are important during pregnancy, they can also be extremely useful after childbirth. In most cases, birth mothers like you can receive financial assistance up to six weeks after the birth of the baby.

For more information about financial assistance during your adoption, please call our agency at 1-800-ADOPTION.

“Giving a baby up for adoption” at birth and maternity leave can be complicated topics for a prospective birth mother and her employer, but there are important considerations in this process. As an expectant mother, you have the right to recover from your adoption process in whichever way you see fit — whether it is with maternity leave or with adoption financial assistance. We encourage you to talk with our adoption specialists for more advice on what is best for you.

Information available through these links is the sole property of the companies and organizations listed therein. America Adoptions, Inc. provides this information as a courtesy and is in no way responsible for its content or accuracy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Why is American Adoptions the right adoption agency choice for many birth mothers?

American Adoptions is one of the largest licensed adoption agencies in the United States. Each year, we work with thousands of women who are facing an unplanned pregnancy and offer assistance to these women. Our large, caring staff is able to assist you seven days a week and provide you with one-on-one counseling about your pregnancy and available options.

You should choose an adoption agency where you feel completely comfortable with their services and staff. With American Adoptions, you will work with an Adoption Specialist who is on-call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The Adoption Specialist will be your advocate and will provide support and guidance as you create an adoption plan that is right for you.

How will the family tell my child about me and the adoption when my child is older?

Each family has their own style of introducing adoption to the child. When you are matched with an adoptive family, you can ask them this question. If you would like your Adoption Specialist to discuss it for you, just let her know. He or she can share your wishes or provide good ideas from other adoptive families.

You will also be able to share what you want your baby to know about you. You can complete a keepsake booklet to share hobbies, stories, photos of you and your family and a letter to your baby. The adoptive family can provide this to your child as he or she grows older. Be as creative as you like! Some birth mothers have even knitted a special blanket as a gift to their baby or given a similar symbol of their love.

The father of your baby can fill out the birth father's keepsake booklet or write a letter too. You may have other family members who would also like to share photos or a letter to the baby. This is your opportunity to pass on your and your family's love and to share your personality, history and reasons for choosing adoption. The adoptive family will treasure whatever information you provide and will share it with the baby at an appropriate age. In most adoptive homes, the word adoption is in the child's vocabulary early on, and adoption is celebrated in their lives.

Additional Resources

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