How to Plan for Your Parental Adoption Leave
“We’re waiting to be chosen by a birth mother. Once we adopt, we want to use our FMLA and parental leave for at least six months. Do you have tips on planning when you don’t know the due date? How can we prepare for a drop-in-the-lap situation?”
Planning for your parental adoption leave from work using the Federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) can be tricky and at times, stressful. But many have pulled it off and hopefully, these tips will help you too.
Planning and excellent communication are vital. You want time to bond with your child. If you can, take advantage of both parents’ leave time. You might like to take leave at the same time or plan for an overlap over time. For example, some adoptive couples begin with the mother taking six months off and then the father taking his leave time. Doing so gives your baby the time to bond with both of his or her parents for up to a year.
Getting family and friends to help around the house might allow you to spend more time with your baby. But it’s best to hold off for a couple of weeks on inviting family over. You’ll want the first week or two alone together, just you, your spouse, and your baby.
“In our adoption, we had two days’ notice to the placement and it was a scramble! We were matched and then she changed her mind. Five weeks later, she decided to place after all. I was planning on breastfeeding, which I did because I had researched in advance. It was hard but worth the wait! Luckily, I had been working from home in my own business. So I was able to conduct business while the baby napped or when I had help,” shares Mardie Caldwell, C.O.A.P., the Founder of Lifetime Adoption.
Research Your Leave Options Now
When you begin moving forward in the adoption process, don’t delay looking into your leave options. Research your adoption leave now, before you have a match. It’s part of your adoption journey, and it’s good to have a plan in mind even without a due day.
Even though it can sometimes take months to be chosen by a birth mother, you could always get a late-night phone call from Lifetime. In such calls, we share about sudden adoption opportunity: a woman has just given birth and has chosen you! In these situations, you’ll need to be at the hospital within a few hours.
Most adoptive parents, though, are matched for a couple of months before the baby is born. Once you’re matched with a birth mother, you will then have a due date you can plan around. But be aware that she could have the baby anywhere between two weeks before or after her due date. And no, don’t ask her to be induced as one adoptive dad did! The birth mother was so insulted by his insensitivity she decided on another family to adopt her baby. It was sad. So be sensitive to what’s best for the birth mother’s health and the health of the baby. Everything else will fall in place.
Planning for Your Adoption Leave
First, find what family leave you do have with your HR department. You can find a list of commonly-asked questions on The Department of Labor’s website.
It’s best to share your adoption plans with your supervisor, boss, and even coworkers before you have a match. This can be hard for some adoptive parents because many people are private about their personal lives. Plus, you don’t know when your match will come. However, when your adoption day does happen, you don’t want to be caught without a plan at work.
Many hopeful adoptive parents share that they’re grateful they took the time to prepare for their adoption leave. By planning ahead, they could be sure that everything in their department was covered just in case they had a sudden drop-in-the-lap opportunity and had to leave quickly. Sharing your coverage plan with your supervisor or boss will help them realize you do care about your position. By planning adoption leave ahead of time, you’re showing responsibility. You’re keeping the company’s bottom line in mind and you’re thinking about your coworkers. Lifetime Adoption will provide you with a leave letter which you can submit to your employer.
Begin the conversation with sharing your ideas and plans about how to divide your work. Doing so may put your supervisor at ease. Let them know that you have already started documenting your procedures and workflow. We call this a “back me up binder” in our office. It includes procedures, passwords, where things are in your office, your contacts, and lists what you do and how you do it. Share your databases or documents before you take leave too. Leave your contact info for anyone who needs to be involved, including how to reach you in case of an urgent matter.
Work with your supervisor to determine who will cover your duties while you’re gone. This might be a temp or a few coworkers operating on your behalf.
Before you come back to work, ask your boss if you can negotiate to work from home a few days a week while still being with the baby. You want to ease back into your job, and it will be hard leaving the baby.
There isn’t one perfect formula that works for everyone. It takes lots of planning, an open mind, and remaining flexible. The better rapport you have with HR and your coworkers and supervisor, the better you’ll do. And the more organized you are, the better.
Start this process early, when you begin your adoption journey. You’ll find it will help prevent a lot of frustration and confusion once you welcome your little one home.
You can do this! It will be worth the effort to relax and enjoy your new family.
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