Our founder, Dave Thomas, started an initiative advocating for adoption benefits in the workplace more than 25 years ago. For him, it was simply a matter of equity — if an employer provides benefits for families because of the birth of a child, why wouldn’t they also acknowledge adoption? He began reaching out to other CEOs and suggested they offer adoption benefits because, as he shared with everyone, “It’s the right thing to do.”

Today, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption continues this legacy by raising awareness about the impact of adoption benefits and providing resources, like this toolkit, to support organizations that are striving to become an adoption-friendly workplace.


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Adoption-Friendly Workplace Spotlight: Next PR

Clockwise from left: Leon, Heather, Eloise and Milo

Heather and Leon Kelly adopted siblings Eloise and Milo thanks to the adoption benefits offered through Heather’s employer, Next PR. The company has been recognized by the Foundation for its commitment to supporting employees who adopt.

“Every child deserves a safe and permanent home,” says Heather, who is now CEO of the company. “Our goal is to substantially reduce time and financial barriers, and to support employees who want to start or grow their family in the way that works best for them.”


Year-after-year, organizations are raising the bar with their adoption benefits to attract, support and retain employees. According to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) annual survey of U.S. employers, 11% of employers provided adoption assistance in 2018, up from 6% in 2014. While adoption benefits are a relatively small investment for most organizations, they can have a life-changing impact for families and children waiting for a permanent home.

What are adoption benefits?

Adoption benefits are voluntary, employer-funded policies for employees who adopt. Often, these policies include financial reimbursement and paid leave for adoption, among other benefits.

The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) also requires organizations with 50 employees or more, and all public agencies, to grant 12 weeks of unpaid adoption leave.

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How do employers benefit?

Employers are increasingly offering adoption benefits to:

  • Strengthen employee loyalty, retention, goodwill and productivity.
  • Gain a competitive edge in recruiting new employees.
  • Enhance the organization’s family-friendly image.
  • Recognize the need to support adoptive and biological parents.
  • Give employees time to bond with their children.
  • Make adoption more affordable.

What is an adoption assistance program?

An adoption assistance program is a formal, written plan maintained by an employer for the benefit of its employees. It is a voluntary program not mandated by law. The employer determines:

  • Whether the adoption assistance program will apply only to employees who finalize the adoption, or also to those with unsuccessful adoption efforts.
  • The amount of financial reimbursement and/or paid leave available to eligible employees.
  • Employee eligibility requirements.

An adoption assistance program must meet the following requirements:

  • Benefit all eligible employees, not just “highly compensated.”
  • Pay no more than 5% of its benefits to shareholders or owners (or their spouses or dependents).
  • Give reasonable notice of the plan to eligible employees.
  • Provide reasonable substantiation that payments or reimbursements are for qualifying expenses.

The Foundation’s Adoption-Friendly Workplace employer toolkit offers a sample adoption benefits policy and more to help you get started.

Download the Toolkit

Who is eligible for adoption benefits?

Many employers maintain the same eligibility requirements for adoption benefits as they do for maternity, paternity or other organization benefits. Most often, full- and part-time employees are eligible, and the effective date ranges from immediately upon hire to one year of service.

What adoption expenses are covered by financial reimbursement?

Most employers use the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) definition of “reasonable and necessary expenses directly related to the adoption of a child,” which may include:

  • Agency fees
  • Legal fees and court costs
  • Medical expenses for a child not covered by insurance
  • Medical expenses of the birthmother
  • Temporary foster care expenses
  • Travel and lodging expenses
  • Immigration and naturalization fees
  • Immunization and translation fees

Some organizations also support post-adoption services and counseling.

The Foundation’s Adoption-Friendly Workplace employer toolkit includes a sample adoption benefits financial reimbursement form and more resources for employers.

Download the Toolkit

What tax laws apply to adoption benefits?

Employers should refer to IRS Publication 15-B, Employer’s Tax Guide to Fringe Benefits, which states that financial adoption assistance is not subject to federal income tax withholding, but is subject to Social Security, Medicare and federal unemployment taxation.

A complete summary of tax regulations related to adoption benefits can be found in the Foundation’s Adoption-Friendly Workplace employer toolkit.

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What else can employers do to support adoptive parents?

  • Connect employees with adoption networks or support groups.
  • Educate employees about adoption with workshops or lending libraries.
  • Offer flexible work policies to help new parents address pre- and post-adoption challenges.
  • Celebrate when employees adopt.

Best Adoption-Friendly Workplace Spotlight: Farmers Insurance®

“I knew I had room for children in my home and my heart,” says Charita, who adopted her daughter, Miah, with support from benefits offered by her employer, Bank of America.

Bank of America’s adoption benefits really helped me,” says Charita. “The process was simple, and the parental leave available is amazing.”

The McClellan family on Miah’s adoption day


Download the Toolkit

Adoption Friendly Workplace Survey

The 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces list recognizes organizations that are striving to make adoption a supported option for every working parent.

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Sample Adoption Benefits Proposal

Employees can use this sample proposal in making the case that adding adoption benefits to an organization’s benefits policy is the right thing to do.