I met my daughter just after her 3rd birthday and took off 8 months parental leave from work. In September, I was due to go back to work and she began Junior Kindergarten. Because I was only able to take 8 months of parental leave, the next several months were extremely stressful for her as she had to go from being newly in my care full time, to having to navigate a new school routine and before and after school care. She was suddenly out of the house and away from me from 8am - 5pm daily; a huge adjustment for a not-quite-4-yr-old. It was a difficult adjustment for us both!
Because she was also out of my care for nearly all of her waking hours, we struggled to remain connected. I was hardly able to see her awake for days at a time. As a single mother, I was not able to consider extending an unpaid leave or remaining home with her. Having a 12 month parental leave would have made a huge difference as I would have been able to provide her with the stability of being home before and after school. I also could have used the hours she was in school for some much needed self-care and to complete other household chores so that we could focus much needed time and attention on our relationship when we were together.
More than 2 yrs later, my girl still clings to me and cries most days when I leave her in before school care. She continues to struggle with transitions. While this may have been the case regardless of the length of my parental leave, I feel like the full 12 month leave would have gotten us off to a much better start.
It is my understanding that the maternity portion of the leave time is to allow for physical healing for the new mother. However, adopted children have a great need for time to settle into their new families and heal emotionally and relationally. All of these children come with some level of trauma history and need considerable time to grow into their new families.
It also would have been so helpful to have had the option to have begun the parental leave prior to the date of placement. While most new parents have months to prepare mentally and practically for the arrival of their new child, I learned of my daughter just weeks before she became my child. By extending the parental leave to 12 full months, this would positively support new adoptive families.