Adoption-Friendly Workplaces List Spurs Improved Benefits

By Stephen Miller Jun 11, 2008
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It’s a list that has prompted policy change.

After the first Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces in America list debuted in 2007, more than 50 organizations nationwide established or enhanced adoption benefits for 2008. As a result, employers who made the top 100 list, released in May 2008 by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, offered more robust adoption benefits packages this year to make it.

Wendy’s International, Inc. ranked number 1 and was among those that expanded benefits in response to the 2007 rankings. (The foundation is not an affiliate of Wendy’s International Inc., although both were founded by the late Dave Thomas, himself an adoptee.) The benefits package that has Wendy’s topping the list offers employees up to $23,300 in financial reimbursement and six weeks of paid leave per adoption. In 2007, the company provided $7,000 and the same amount of paid leave.

“Supporting adoption and helping find permanent, loving homes for foster children was the vision of our founder Dave Thomas,” said Kerrii Anderson, chief executive officer and president of Wendy’s International Inc. “Many of our employees have adopted children, and we hope to empower more employees in the future with meaningful benefits and support.”

The Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces in America list for 2008 includes the top 100 organizations that provide exceptional support to employees who adopt, based on the amount of financial assistance and paid leave provided.

Adoption-Friendly U.S. Workplaces: The Top 5 of the Top 100

U.S. Rank

Employer

Maximum Financial Assistance

Maximum Weeks Paid Leave

Industry

Employees

1

Wendy’s International

$23,300

6*

Food, beverage & restaurants

40,200

2

Citizens Financial Group

$21,650

1

Financial services

25,000

3

United Business Media

$15,000

2

Entertainment, media & publishing

1,200

4

Timberland

$12,000

2*

Consumer products

5,850

5

Barilla America

$12,000

1

Food, beverage & restaurants

340

* Amount includes additional financial support for special needs adoption.

Source: Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 2008 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces List—America's Top 100.


In addition, the foundation also recognized the top 10 adoption-friendly workplacesby size and industry leadership, and companies that support the cause of adoption and adoptive families in other ways. Each of these lists can be viewed at www.AdoptionFriendlyWorkplace.org.

“For years we’ve known employers care about helping employees and their families, but this year we learned they also care about being competitive,” said Rita Soronen, the foundation’s executive director. “We found companies genuinely want to help families formed through adoption, but they also know it’s important to maintain a competitive benefits package. Further, we saw the list actually prompted some employers to enhance their adoptions benefits packages.”

National Trends Include ‘Relative Adoption’

Adoption benefits are voluntary, employer-provided and include some combination of financial assistance, paid leave and/or unpaid leave. According to the foundation’s 2008 survey results, the average adoption-friendly employer has had a policy in place for eight years and offers up to $5,000 in financial assistance and five weeks of paid leave.

The foundation, now celebrating its 16th anniversary, has seen a significant increase in the number of employers offering adoption benefits over the years, which mirrors an annual survey conducted by Hewitt Associates LLC, a global HR outsourcing and consulting firm. Of the 1,000 major U.S. employers surveyed, Hewitt reports a steady increase of companies offering financial adoption benefits, from 12 percent in 1990 to 47 percent in 2007.

Soronen noted another new trend among employers. “Now we’re seeing support for relative adoptions,” she said. “When a child is adopted by a grandparent or other relative, it is usually an emergency situation in which the employee can benefit greatly from financial help and paid leave.”

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When a child is adopted by a grandparent or other

relative, it’s usually an emergency situation

where employees can benefit greatly from

financial help and paid leave.

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Myths About Foster Care Adoption

A national survey commissioned by the foundation and released in November 2007 by Harris Interactive revealed that the majority of those considering adoption are considering adopting children currently in foster care, yet most have misperceptions about the process and the children who are eligible for adoption. These misperceptions include:

  • 67 percent of those considering foster care adoption are unnecessarily concerned that biological parents can return to claim the children. Once the court finalizes the legal termination of parental rights, the parents can never return to claim the child.
  • 46 percent mistakenly believe foster care adoption is prohibitively expensive, when in reality there is very little cost to adopt from foster care, and there is financial support available for all adoptions.
  • 45 percent believe children in foster care have entered the system because of juvenile delinquency, when in reality, the vast majority entered the system through no fault of their own, as victims of neglect, abandonment and/or abuse.

The survey showed a gap between beliefs about who is suitable to adopt, based on marital status or age, and actual adoption practice. For example:

  • 48 percent believe that a single parent raising an adopted child can definitely provide a healthy and loving environment. Still, just 32 percent of children adopted from foster care in 2005 were adopted by single parents or unmarried couples.
  • 37 percent believe a person over 55 can definitely provide a healthy and loving environment for a child, but just 23 percent of adopted children live with an adoptive parent 55 years or older.

“Misperceptions about foster care adoption create barriers that keep wonderful children from loving adoptive parents,” Soronen said. “We need to inform potential adoptive parents about the need, the affordability and the finality of foster care adoption so we can make strides toward connecting more waiting children in foster care with forever families.”

Stephen Miller is editor/manager of SHRM Online’s Benefits Discipline.

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