Adopting a child: making it easy for the child AND for the working parent
Adopting a child can bring much happiness into your life. But is this always how the child sees it? No matter how welcoming you and your family are, sometimes adoption can be a traumatic experience for a child.
With that in mind, it’s interesting to know that the government is currently deciding whether to remove the legislation that says a child’s ethnic background needs to be taken into account when matching them with adoptive parents. Broadcaster Floella Benjamin is against the idea. She believes that a child’s ethnicity must be considered prior to adoption to ensure the child doesn’t experience an ‘identity crisis’.
As quoted in The Independent, Benjamin said that “being visibly different to family members may also result in a sense of not belonging or not feeling able to identify with their family.”
The government does recognise that adoption represents a huge life change as well as a massive commitment, just as having biological children does, and so is working to make the legislation surrounding adoption as supportive as possible of children and parents alike. But should ethnicity be a major factor in this?
While it can be confusing for a child being adopted, it can be equivalently complicated for parents interested in adoption to figure out where they stand in terms of rights too – particularly employment rights.
Last year, changes to the system were announced as part of a bid to make the adoption process more straightforward. Government figures show the number of children approved for adoption rose from 3,000 in 2010 to over 4,000 this past year.
For adoptive parents, the government offers financial aid to ensure the child is properly provided for. As it currently stands, the government supports employed adoptive parents with special arrangements for Statutory Adoption Leave and Statutory Adoption Pay.
In essence, what this means is that during adoption leave the worker’s employment rights are protected. This safeguards certain entitlements including any holiday that may have built up and any pay increases, and ensures the job is kept open for the employee to return to work.
Also, on adopting a child, either parent (but not both) is allowed to take up to 52 weeks’ adoptive leave. However, the other may be able to claim paternity leave instead. Depending on the company, some employers actually offer additional leave on top of this.
It’s important to know though that not every adoptive parent can claim this form of leave. The guidelines state that a person is only eligible for the leave if they’ve been employed in the same job for at least 26 weeks continuously by the time they are matched with their adoptive child. The employer also needs to have been provided with proof of the adoption and a further criterion states that the employer must be earning at least £109 a week before tax.
Of course, an employee needs to inform their employer of how much leave they want, the day the leave will begin and the date the child will be placed with their family. Technically, this leave can start prior to the child moving in with their new parent/s. For adoptions within the UK, leave can start up to 14 days prior to the child moving in but, for international adoptions, leave can start within 28 days of the child arriving in the United Kingdom.
Also, adoptive parents should not assume they’ll be entitled to employment leave. If the adoption is private, the children involved are stepchildren of family members or you’re self-employed then Statutory Adoption Leave won’t apply.
But what does Statutory Adoption leave actually entitle employees to?
In terms of payment, this form of leave allows you £136.78 per week or 90% of your weekly income before tax (whichever is lower). The employee will receive this in the same way as they receive regular wages (such as weekly or monthly) and the pay will start as soon the leave begins. These are the basic guidelines of course, but there’s plenty more information available here.
Evidently, for both the children and parents, the process of adoption can be an exhausting one. The government is trying to make the procedure as straightforward as possible but, as you can see, adoption isn’t taken lightly in the UK. And it shouldn’t be. Every adopted child deserves to be welcomed into a home where they feel comfortable, loved and provided for. Similarly, parents deserve the support of the government in aiding their care for their adopted child through employment benefits and aid.
Have you been through the adoption process? Are you considering it in the near future? We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences.