Stephanie Haber

PFL In Person: Adopting A New Approach To Bonding

June 27, 2017
Joy and Judy

When you hear bonding leave, a newborn little bundle of joy probably comes to mind first. But Paid Family Leave is not just meant for parents to bond with their new baby after birth – adoptions qualify for bonding time as well, regardless of the minor child’s age. Let’s face it, whether your newly-adopted child is still an infant or a teenager, you will need quality time to get your new family “gelling”.

As Paid Family Leave will impact families of all shapes and sizes, and we’re celebrating LGBT pride month, we’re excited to bring you real-life story #3 in our “PFL in Person” series. Meet Joy and Judy, who adopted their first child late last year and are looking to further grow their family next year when the availability of paid leave may help them better bond when they welcome child number 2 into their family.

Joy practices yoga and tries to find time for meditation to help focus her priorities. She and her partner, Judy, share responsibilities at home, and at the property management business they own, trading off in an effort to keep everything running smoothly at home, and at work. They’re your typical New York family— owning a house and work obligations and, like most New Yorkers, knee-deep in the hustle it takes to make a life, and all its ends meet.

But there was something missing.  They started discussing the possibility of adopting, and eight months ago they welcomed the first addition to their loving family — a 12 year old girl.  Celebrating with a party and planning trips and events to facilitate the bonding process, both Joy and Judy struggled balancing time at home to bond with their daughter against their obligations at work. 

Bonding Time Is More Important Than Ever
Both Joy and Judy were able to take two weeks off work to spend with their new daughter, but the bonding process post-adoption can be challenging and unique to each child, and Joy still wishes she’d had more time to devote to that crucial period. It’s not just the physical time, either.  In today’s ever-connected world, Joy expressed the all-too-familiar concerns of trying to be really present during time with family and loved ones, and not “constantly checking your phone,” or worrying about work and what may be happening at the office when you need to be fully focused on your new addition. 

These are issues that ring true with parents of all stripes and demographics, with kids of all ages. There’s a constant balancing act between all of our obligations and only so many hours in the day.  And when you become an entirely new family unit, two weeks can feel like a comically short period of time in which to establish the critical familial foundation that can set the tone for the rest of your life, and the life of your partner and child.

Adoptive Parents Talk Bonding With Their Children
Joy and Judy are lucky, in many respects.  The nature of their work allows them to trade off with each other, and work at home often as they need to attend to familial obligations.  Yet they still feel the stress of trying to squeeze in a months- and years-long bonding process into a few short weeks. Both expressed desire to take at least four weeks off work to spend focusing on their new family, and in an ideal situation, more like eight weeks.

"If I had my choice, I would be at home a lot more than I am."  
 

As the couple looks forward to adopting a second child, the possibility of being able to use Paid Family Leave during that process makes them feel much more comfortable.  “It’s never easy,” but when you know you will be able to take more time to bond, and you’ll also be able to earn a little money while doing it, “the tension isn’t there.”
 

"If the tension isn’t there, you are nicer and more relaxed."

 

The time they look forward to taking with PFL will allow them to focus more on their family, as they welcome another child and take the time to participate in all the activities that bond families together — from family picnics and road trips to quiet nights at home. And it’s not just the familial bonding aspects of PFL that make PFL appealing for Joy and Judy. Being able to care for an aging family member who gets sick or injured, or when someone in the family is called to active military service, having the time to spend truly away from work benefits families of all kinds.

So how does Paid Family Leave work for adoptions?
If Judy and Joy adopt their second child in 2018, they each can receive 50% of their average weekly wage (capped at the State’s average weekly wage) for up to 8 weeks next year (benefit amounts and time gradually increase until 2021 as PFL rolls out over 4 years). Additional PFL benefits include:

  • Keeping health care coverage while on leave 
  • Job protection and discrimination protection while on leave - just like FMLA
  • Not having to use earned vacation time to cover or extend leave

 

PFL Expert Tip

While PFL can be taken for the obvious bonding needs after the actual adoption, you can even take paid family leave before the actual placement if an absence from work is required as part of the process, such as counseling sessions, appearing in court, consulting with attorneys or doctors representing the birth parent, physical examinations, or traveling to another country to complete an adoption!

However, if you take PFL for early adoption-related events before the actual adoption date, your 52-week clock for paid family benefits starts ticking on the first day of leave taken, i.e. your entitlement to paid family leave for adoption expires at the end of the consecutive 52-week period beginning on the date of the placement or first day of leave taken, whichever is earlier.

 

If you have plans to adopt, PFL can make the process easier for your growing family – find more details on coverage and eligibility, or send us questions at pflquestions@shelterpoint.com.

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