Last month, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption released its 11th annual survey of the Top 100 Adoption Friendly Workplaces.
The list highlights the country’s top companies offering paid reimbursement and leave packages for adoptive parents.
This year, American Express leaped 30 spots to the top of the list. Already a leader in providing benefits to adoptive parents, the financial services company now offers U.S.-based, regular, full-time and part-time employees up to $35,000 to help with the cost of an adoption and 20 weeks of paid parental leave to women and men welcoming a child through adoption.
The Dave Thomas Foundation praised American Express in a statement from CEO Rita Soronen.
“American Express’ leadership in this area is truly remarkable,” Soronen said. “The two companies topping the list this year [American Express and Capital One Financial] made significant enhancements in their adoption benefits.”
Ferring Pharmaceuticals, the Quality Supply Chain Co-Op and Citizens Bank also made the top five. Barilla America, Inc., Abbott, Hanes Brands, American Academy of Pediatrics and Hasbro, Inc. rounded out the top 10. These companies are characterized by a combination of financial benefits for adoption expenses and paid leave for bonding with the new family member.
This improvement is part of the ongoing story of workplaces becoming more adoption-friendly over the last two decades. According to the Dave Thomas Foundation, the number of companies offering financial adoption benefits has risen from 12 percent in 1990 to 52 percent in 2013.
But the extension of some benefits is not the extension of equal benefits. While American Express, Capital One, and the other companies on the Top 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces treat their adoptive families well, they do not represent the norm for American employers. Most of the Top 100 Adoption-Friendly Workplaces are banks or financial groups, employing a relatively small portion of the country’s overall workforce.
A June 2017 survey by an advocacy organization called Paid Leave for the United States, or PL+US, found that of 44 major American employers, only 10 provided equal benefits to both adoptive and biological parents. This generous minority included financial institutions such as Bank of America and Citigroup, as well as upscale department stores like Nordstroms and Ikea. Low-cost titan Target also makes the list of equal-benefit employers.
This places these companies in a subset of a subset. There is no American industry in which most parents have a right to financial support from their employer in a family emergency. At the highest end of an industry standard, 37 percent of finance or insurance workers have access to paid family leave. At the lowest end, only 5 percent of construction workers can rely on an employer’s financial support in any family crisis, which can include the life-changing event of adding a child to your family through adoption.
The PL+US survey shows that some major reatailers are unlikely to invest in the futures of adoptive families. Eight top convenience retailers — Albertsons, CVS, Walgreens, Staples and Kroger among them — provide no paid leave to adoptive parents. Another nine major corporations, including Amazon, McDonalds, Starbucks and Wal-Mart, offer paid parental leave to adoptive parents in upper corporate management, but do not extend benefits to the hourly wage laborers who make up the vast majority of the workforce. An additional seven employers in the survey, including Apple, General Electric and Disney, give significantly (at least eight weeks) less paid leave to adoptive parents than to biological mothers.
Even when paid leave is on the table for Americans, it is often extended unequally.
Baylor Odabashian is a journalist, community activist, published surrealist poet and experimental folk musician living in Los Angeles.