Any time I write about FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) I get a little nervous because for as much benefit and protection that it gives to parents, there are also so many twists and turns that it is easy to misinterpret. So, I’ll start this post off by recommending that you seek counsel and guidance from your company’s HR department and if that gets weird you may have to involve a labor and employment attorney.
Here’s the short answer on “Can I take FMLA leave to adopt or foster a child?” The answer is “yes” however there are some differences if you are not giving birth to the child yourself.
Many supervisors and employees think that FMLA is only there to provide leave for medical conditions (pregnancy being one) however it also applies when an employee (either male or female) has started the process to adopt or foster a child. Be sure to let your manager and HR know well in advance that you are in the process of adopting or fostering a child. If your company is obligated to follow FMLA guidelines you are entitled to leave before the actual placement of a child in your home when the absence is required in order for the adoption to proceed.
As you may already know, adoption is a time-consuming process that can involve travel (both before and at the time of the placement for adoption); paperwork; court appearances; meetings with adoption agencies, social workers, and birth mothers; doctor’s visits, and visits to various governmental offices. Employees are entitled to leave for all these purposes. It’s not surprising that supervisors and managers would tire of a long series of absences, but they have to accept it without complaint or retaliation of any kind.
Your employer may ask for verification that you are participating in an adoption or foster process in order for you to qualify for FMLA consideration. Most likely you attorney or adoption/foster agency can provide the information your employer needs.
Employees who are adopting domestically may take leave to be at the hospital when their child is being born. Similarly, it is a best practice that employers allow employees to take leave for the birth of their child by a surrogate. Note that the source of the child (e.g., whether from a licensed placement agency or otherwise) is not a factor in determining eligibility for leave.
While you can take full time leave after the adoption, your employer does not have to allow intermittent leave for bonding, although they do have to allow it if the adopted child has a serious health condition. An employee’s entitlement to leave for adoption or foster care expires at the end of the 12-month period beginning on the date of the placement.
All this to say that the preparation for adoption or fostering can sometimes be very complicated and time consuming so you will want to plan for your time away from work and transition back to work just as you would if you were giving birth yourself. Be sure to read the other posts here to get the advice you need to help relieve the stress of this wonderful time in your’s, and your child’s, life.