“It’s OK, you can always adopt”.
If you’re unable to have a child, the chances are you’ll have heard these words before. But although they’re usually meant well, the people saying them often have little understanding of the many complications involved in adopting a child.
Some of the employees we have supported through the process have likened it to riding an emotional rollercoaster.
Similar, but not the same: maternity and adoption
At Beyond EAP, we have worked with many employers who believe that because statutory adoption leave and pay is the same as statutory maternity leave and pay, the procedures must also be largely the same.
For one, the employee becomes pregnant, and then they have a child. For the other, the employee is matched with a child, whom they then adopt. Simple!
And since the employee isn’t even carrying this child themselves…
…isn’t the adoption process even simpler?
While pregnancy and adoption can both be fraught with unexpected, scary, and sometimes sad developments, many people are surprised by the unique twists and turns that can occur after deciding to adopt.
Of course, this is a decision that’s life-changing in itself. When you become a parent, permanent adjustments must always be made: mentally, physically, emotionally, and financially.
But when you adopt, you have to add police checks to the list, not to mention preparation classes, thorough assessments of your home and lifestyle, and finding the right people to provide references.
(Imagine if every parent had to go through this process before they were allowed to give birth!)
No guarantee of a ‘happy ever after’
Even if you are lucky enough to be matched with a child, you still may not get to enjoy a fairytale ending.
One particular employee we supported had everything in place. The lovely child she had been matched with was all ready to come and live with her, she had her leave from work arranged, and the child’s room was beautifully furnished and re-decorated.
Then, right at the last minute, a member of the child’s family approached the court and put an end to the adoption process.
While the employee was pleased that the child would be with family, she was also utterly devastated. Sadly, our support then moved into helping her deal with the intense feelings of bereavement that followed.
How to support adoptive parents
Many adoptive parents do not fit the mould of a ‘conventional’ parent: for example they may be older, or be part of a same-sex couple. They may find it more difficult to open up to their employers about the adoption journey, or ask for help when issues arise.
Employers should adopt a flexible, non-judgemental approach that means employees can feel comfortable discussing the details of their adoption process.
Ensure written policies are clear and thorough, detailing what will happen when an employee has to start their adoption leave with little or no notice, or if unforeseen issues should arise.
All of this will help to make your employees feel safe and considered, during an uncertain time filled with heightened emotions. These are the actions of a true employer of choice, and they are likely to be rewarded with a loyal and happy workforce.
(Who knows, you may even receive an offer to become the new child’s godparent!)