In the early mornings, I hear the unmistakable gentle pitter-patter of tiny feet approaching my bedside. With open arms, I humbly pull my young daughter close and we snuggle. It’s the perfect start to my day, every day. As a parent, I feel that moments like these define my life. As an adoptive parent, I will always remember my daughter’s special “Gotcha Day” — the day our family of four became a forever family of five. 

For the second year in a row, PGi has made the top 100 list of America’s Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. We’re especially honored to be ranked No. 1 in the communications and telecommunications industry category for 2012. The Foundation’s website provides free adoption resources, adoption kits for domestic and foster adoption, as well as testimonials. I’m especially fond of the Foundation’s Unadoptable is Unacceptable video. The Foundation provides Wendy’s Wonderful Kids grants to public and private adoption agencies.

As a benefits manager, I’m thrilled that my company supports adoption. My experience with the entire adoption process makes my role not only more informed, but more personal. I can easily empathize with the voluminous paperwork, complex process and, most importantly, the waiting. When we were adopting our daughter five years ago, my husband and I had flip charts on our walls as we tracked our own adoption journey.  Myriad colors and tasks filled white pages and we would delight each time we were able to make progress by checking off items from the list. Even our boys got involved, carrying around pictures of their soon-to-be sister. Experiencing a successful adoption helps me provide positive encouragement and support. 

Offering a robust adoption assistance program doesn’t have to break the bank. As with any HR policy, the employer can determine eligibility, waiting periods and benefits provided. The benefit can easily be intertwined with Family Medical Leave, paid time off, health plan designs, voluntary legal plans and employee assistance programs — all benefits which help employees work toward building happy homes. Additionally, many health plans exclude infertility coverage — offering an adoption assistance benefit can be a positive suggestion.

Our adoption policy provides both full-time and priority part-time associates with substantial reimbursement towards expenses, plus additional paid time off. This includes agency/placement fees, legal or court fees, and eligible travel expenses. The benefit can be used yearly, which has resulted in many of our associates adopting several times and building diverse, global adoptive families over the years. Our policy has another unique spin — we don’t require the child to be placed in the home before applying for assistance. In many cases, the adoption process can span months, or even years. The emotional burden is often troublesome, because some federal and state adoption credits can’t be claimed until after the adoption is final. The financial obstacles can seem insurmountable. 

In our family, we not only celebrate holidays and birthdays, but also the annual “Gotcha Day.” It’s a very special occasion. My daughter selects her restaurant of choice where we revel in stories of the anticipation of her arrival. At the time of her adoption five years ago, she was the tender age of three and joy immediately filled our home. I encourage all employers to considering adding adoption assistance to their suite of benefit offerings. After all, everyone deserves a morning snuggle!

Karrie Andes, SPHR, CBP, is the senior benefits manager for PGi and a savvy self-funding health care gal. She’s located in the Kansas City area and can be reached at karrie.andes@pgi.com.

Do you offer adoption assistance benefits? Share your thoughts in the comments and read our story "Employers embrace adoption" in the Sept. 1 issue.

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