When she adopted her daughter two years ago, Alicia Towler, a cash manager for SandRidge Energy, was disappointed to learn her company didn't offer paid maternity leave to adoptive moms.
But Towler was relieved when SandRidge decided to offer her a $10,000 adoption benefit, which she could use to defray legal and other adoption-related expenses.
“I was glad they acknowledged we are mothers also,” said Towler, 38, who's married with two college-aged stepchildren and in the process of adopting another child — a baby boy due Feb. 17.
“Adoption is so common these days that it's very good to know we've implemented the benefit, and it will be there for others,” Towler said.
Adoption assistance is growing in popularity as a corporate perk, studies show. In Aon Hewitt's 2013 survey of 1,000 major U.S. employers, 52 percent offered an adoption benefit, up from 12 percent in 1990.
Across the latest annual “100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces” list of the Columbus, Ohio-based nonprofit Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, employers of all sizes provide an average of $7,000 in adoption assistance and four weeks of paid leave. Financial reimbursement varies from $500 to $25,300; paid leave extends from one to 18 weeks; and unpaid leave, beyond what's required by the Family Medical Leave Act, ranges from one week to three years.
“Employers who offer adoption benefits understand that the initial needs of adoptive families are no different than families formed biologically. … and that family-friendly workplaces create strong workforces,” foundation Chief Executive Rita Soronen said, upon unveiling its seven annual list in September.
Foundation spokeswoman Staci Perkins said Thursday that Oklahoma-based companies that provide adoption benefits include Tulsa-based QuikTrip Corporation and Chesapeake Energy Corp., both of which offer $10,000 in financial assistance and six weeks' paid leave to adopting employees. QuikTrip offers an additional six weeks of unpaid leave.
Curtis Corcoran, a Norman resident and senior project manager in Chesapeake's information technology department, welcomes the corporate financial assistance, which he used to pay for the adoption of his youngest child and plans to tap again for a pending adoption through Deaconess Pregnancy & Adoption Services.
Corcoran and his wife Beth have seven adopted children — five boys and two girls, ages 2 to 11.
“We've had four different adoptions with four different price tags, from two brothers we fostered and adopted through the Department of Human Services, which is essentially free, to agency adoptions to our first, and private, adoption that was close to $20,000. I figure we've spent $25,000 out of pocket and another $25,000 from grants, gifts and employer-based adoption benefits,” Corcoran said.
At a glance
Corporate adoption benefits:
Many companies offer adoption benefits to their employees, ranging from financial assistance to cover attorney fees, travel costs and other expenses to paid and unpaid parental leave. Interested employees should contact their human resources managers regarding potential benefits. The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption also maintains a list at adoptionfriendlyworkplace.org/employer.
Unpaid job leave:
The Family Medical Leave Act requires employers with 50 or more employees within a 75-mile radius to provide up to 12 weeks unpaid leave for parental matters, including adoption, foster care and birth of a child. Eligible employees must have worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months immediately before the date FMLA leave begins.
Other financial assistance:
Adoption grants are offered by several organizations, including the National Adoption Foundation — fundyouradoption.org, showhope.org, helpusadopt.org (offering grants of up to $15,000 regardless of marital status or sexual orientation), damonsdance.com (an Oklahoma fund created in memory of a toddler); lifesongfororphans.org (Oklahoma churches which have partnered with Lifesong to launch adoption funds include Church at Battle Creek in Broken Arrow; Council Road Baptist in Bethany, New Beginnings in Bixby and Wildwood Community/Forerunner Fund in Norman).
The Internal Revenue Service allows taxpayers, with 2014 modified adjusted incomes of $237,880 or below, to exclude all or part of any financial adoption assistance they receive from their employers from their taxable incomes and claim a nonrefundable credit of up to $13,190 a child for qualifying adoption expenses.
Children adopted through the Oklahoma Department of Human Services:
Generally, adoptive parents are reimbursed for day care until children turn 6 and paid a stipend of roughly $348 per child until they graduate from high school and receive free health care for their children through Medicaid.
Did you know?
More than 100,000 children are waiting to be adopted in the U.S. foster care system. Every year, some 23,000 turn 18 and age out of the system without families.
It's great to work for a company that provides an adoption benefit. It's nice to see them put the commitment behind family, no matter how the family is built. Every child deserves a loving home and a forever family.”
Senior project manager in Chesapeake's information technology department