Chicago area workplaces where adoption benefits are best

Seven years ago, Joanna and David Ardell shelled out thousands of dollars, got on a plane, flew to Korea and adopted a 9-month-old baby.

Best adoption-friendly workplaces in the Chicago area

According to the Dave Thomas Adoption Foundation

1. Abbott

2. Barilla America, Inc.

3. American Academy of Pediatrics

4. TransUnion

5. AbbVie

6. Takeda Pharmaceuticals

7. Northern Trust

8. Sears Holding Corp.

9. National Futures Association

 

Then they brought their little bundle back to Oak Park and David returned to work a few days later, struggling with jet lag and night wakings while racing home in the evenings to try to bond with a child who didn’t understand his language.

Joanna, a freight broker who battled her office for FMLA, took time off before realizing she didn’t want to return to her job, which would require her to leave home before dawn and return home in the early evening.

While new parents who have babies the traditional way have their own struggles (we’re looking at you, postpartum depression and hormonal fluctuations), there are many laws requiring workplaces to offer a (modest) maternity leave. But benefits for adoptions are left up to the judgment of workplaces themselves.

Fortunately, there are some workplaces that simply get it, and 13 out of the 14 top adoption-friendly workplaces are here in Chicago, according to The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, which released its annual list of the best places in September.

The foundation surveyed 160 companies throughout the United States (any company is invited to participate in the survey) and found that some employers go out of their way to make adopting a baby a relatively easy process in terms of the job-end of it.

Abbott, a global healthcare company, was named as the top adoption-friendly workplace in Chicago and third overall in the country. It offers employees two weeks of paid leave and $20,000 in financial assistance for adoptions.

Wendy Willis, 45, program manager for Abbott Quality & Regulatory, adopted her daughter, Micah, from the Cradle in 2013 and took advantage of all the adoption benefits.

“I coupled the paid adoption leave with other leave benefits, so I had several weeks off before she went to the on-site daycare,” says Willis, of Vernon Hills. “I also have flexible summer hours, so I come in late and I work from home once a week or once every other week.”

While the time off was the biggest benefit for Willis, it was the $16,000 in financial assistance that helped Angelo Abrosecchia and Leah Braas, who adopted a 6-year-old from China in March.

Abrosecchia is an industrial manager at Barilla, which ranked number two for adoption-friendly workplaces in Chicago.

“Barilla was very generous about giving an adoption benefit, which helped us make the decision to allow us to do the adoption,” Braas says, explaining that an international adoption can cost up to $35,000. The company also offers a two-week maternity leave for adoptions.

“Not everyone is able to have the family they would like the traditional way, and the costs involved in adoption because of agency and government fees and lawyer fees make it so cost-prohibitive,” Braas says. “If every company provided a benefit toward adoption, there would be a lot fewer children in orphanages.”

Some companies go even further, extending their adoption benefits to employees who are fostering children.

Mary Crane, manager of the Council on Foster Care, Adoption and Kinship Care with the American Academy of Pediatrics, adopted in 2011 after fostering her child for two years.

The AAP, which is third in Chicago on the adoption-friendly workplace list, offers up to six weeks of paid leave for foster parents.

She says it’s essential for workplaces to offer foster and adoption benefits because of the nature of these situations.

“When you foster or adopt, it’s often on a very short and surprising timeframe,” Crane says.

When you get that call, you have to buy supplies, find a daycare or school, and most importantly, you need to bond with the new child, which takes time. “It’s so helpful to have a policy in place,” Crane says.

More and more companies are instituting policies like these, says Rita Soronen, president and CEO of Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption.

Just 12 percent of those surveyed offered the benefits 26 years ago; nearly half offer them today.

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