People’s families can grow in a variety of ways. Sometimes, two people fall in love after the end of a previous relationship. One of them may already have children, so when they get married, their new spouse suddenly has stepchildren. Other times, couples expand their family the most common way, by getting pregnant and then later having a child. In some cases, adoption is the reason that a family grows to include a new member.
Adoption is the legal process by which an adult can assume custody and parental responsibilities for a child that is not biologically theirs. People adopt for a wide range of reasons, from an inability to conceive to concerns about passing on genetic conditions.
Some people even adopt the children of their family members who cannot provide care for the child. Regardless of why you decided to adopt, you should familiarize yourself with your leave rights under federal law.
When you adopt a child, you have the right to take leave
Adding a new member to your family can be incredibly stressful. It has a tendency to change many aspects of your life, from your budget to your schedule. You definitely need time to adjust to these new life circumstances. More importantly, you and the newly adopted child in your family need time together to bond.
Just like with a newborn baby, an adopted infant, child or teen requires time with their new parent to develop emotional attachments. The Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA) allows for new parents, including new adoptive parents, to take leave from work to facilitate emotional attachment with a new child. That work is typically unpaid, but it can be of great benefit to the recipient and their new child.
If you have worked for the same employer for the last 12 months and have worked at least 1250 hours at a location with 50 or more employees, you should qualify for FMLA leave. You may take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave, which can provide you with time to care for your new adopted child and time to bond with them as you both adjust to your new life.
FMLA leave applies to foster parents as well
Permanent adoption is not the only way that adults who are not the biological parents of a child can legally assume responsibility for that child. Foster placement is also an option in many cases. Whether you are fostering a child from your extended family or a child who is entirely unrelated to you, foster placement also qualifies you for FMLA leave.
In some cases, notice of foster or adoptive placement is sudden. You may not have the ability to forewarn your employer if you did not receive advance notice. However, if you are actively working toward adoption or fostering children, it is best to inform your employer. That way, your request for leave will not come across as a shock.
If your employer has denied you leave under the FMLA after an adoption or foster placement, or if your employer has fired you for taking your leave, you may need to look into your legal rights to push back against that unfair termination.