5 Ways Leaders Can Support Adoptive Parents

Working parents who build their families by adopting a child face many challenges, including financial (US adoptions can cost up to $58,000), logistical (the paperwork can be endless), and emotional. When employees perceive that their organization supports their family in general, they are more satisfied with their jobs, more committed to their organization, and less likely to leave. The authors sought to find out how organizations can support adoptive parents, particularly by surveying married couples who had adopted a child in recent years. They found different types of support, some more costly than others, that foster parents’ employees consider important and present five ways leaders can better support foster parents in their organizations.

About 100,000 children are adopted by parents in the United States each year. While there are less expensive options for adopting a child, namely foster care adoption, some adoptions can cost as much as $58,000. In addition to the financial burden, people who choose to build their families through adoption face the unique challenges that come with the adoption process, such as making life-changing decisions, filling out seemingly endless paperwork, the process of studying at home. and endure the emotional rollercoaster of waiting to be matched with their child and finalize the adoption. And when one or both stepparents work, they face balancing all of these challenges with the demands of their jobs.

What we do know is that when employees perceive that their organization supports their family in general, they are more satisfied with their jobs, more committed to their organizations, and less likely to leave—all great things. So what can organizations do? The answer is simple: Provide meaningful support to adoptive parents. We sought to understand the benefits of this type of organizational support by surveying married couples who had adopted a child in recent years.

The Benefits of Providing Adoption Support

The good news for agencies is that there are a variety of types of support, some more costly than others, that foster care workers find important.

Some organizations provide financial reimbursement for adoption-related expenses, paid or unpaid leave, flexible work arrangements, or managerial support to employees during and after the adoption process. These are all forms of organizational support for adoption (OSFA), which is the intentional effort on the part of an organization, through financial, environmental, or procedural means, to support an employee who is in the process of adopting or has recently adopted a child. The 2022 SHRM Employee Benefits Survey found that 28% of organizations offer paid adoption leave.

In our research, we found that OSFA has a far-reaching positive impact on both employees and the organization. Our study showed that more OSFA led to positive outcomes for employees at work (e.g., higher organizational commitment). OSFA also led to more positive outcomes at home (eg, increased family functioning and decreased relationship tension).

But the positive impact didn’t stop there: the employees’ spouses were also more committed to the organization that provided OSFA, a factor that has been shown to be important to employee engagement in their organization. Finally, and most importantly for the adoption community, OSFA has led to increased attachment of the adopted child to both the worker and their spouse, a huge family—as well as societal—benefit.

How to support foster parents

Here are five ways leaders can better support adoptive parents in their organization:

Financial compensation

Adoptions are expensive. On average, it costs families $35,000 to adopt a baby through a private adoption agency. Workers seeking to build their families through adoption will face agency fees, legal fees, medical expenses and more. Providing financial compensation to support these adoption costs will not only help with the financial burden of adoption, reducing stress on employees, but could also motivate more employees to adopt. In a recent study by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, 64% of Americans said that their employer’s financial support for adoption influences their decision to adopt.

Paid leave

Offering paid leave is another way to support working foster parents. Many adoption-friendly organizations will offer the same leave benefits to adoptive parents that they offer for maternity and/or paternity leave. Similar to financial compensation, paid time off plays an important role in whether employees adopt — 68% of Americans claim that access to paid time off influences their decision.

Flexible work arrangements

Managers can also support adoption by providing flexible work arrangements for adoptive parents. The adoption process can be complicated and may require employees to leave work for home studies, court appointments, or even domestic or international travel. Giving employees the flexibility to work outside of regular hours or to work remotely will help them better manage their work and family demands throughout the adoption process. As one survey participant told us: “[The organization’s] the flexibility was invaluable. It reduced stress in many ways. It gave me the freedom to spend a lot of time with my family, but also contribute to my regular work. They really helped me balance things out.”

Connect employees with adoption networks or support groups

Another way to support adoptive parents is to connect them with local adoption networks or support groups. Not only will the support they receive from there be beneficial, but connecting them shows that you care about their family and support their adoption efforts, which is sure to ensure employee engagement and loyalty.


Adopting a child is a monumental event for your employees and should be treated as such. Society is quick to celebrate pregnancies and births, showering the new parent with flowers, cards, parties and gifts. However, adoptive parents are often overlooked. Celebrating your employee’s new family lets them know you recognize the importance of the event.

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Providing support to working stepparents doesn’t have to be complicated or even expensive. Our research shows that the return on investment is significant, boosting the well-being of workers and their families. In addition, the provision of OSFA is an important step towards legitimizing adoption as a way of building one’s family and an innovative way to benefit society as a whole.

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