Adoption discrimination was something I heard about in our months preparing to adopt & becoming adopt-ready. I had no idea where, when, or if it would ever be an issue for our family. However, it turns out it was looking me right in the face, I just didn't realize it until we were about to become parents.
When we were looking at starting a family and then much later while completing our PRIDE training I remember being thrilled and relieved that, like many employers, my employer offered leave benefits to new moms. As many new parents face, while growing your family is tremendously exciting, the reality of moving from being a 2-income family to one income was stressful. As a family growing by adoption we didn't have the luxury of knowing it would be 9 or so months to save and prepare financially for this change. We had no idea that our 'wait' would be far shorter than that.
Exactly 1 month and 1 week after I had initially notified HR about our awaiting status, we found out we had been matched with a birth-mother. She was due in less than 4 weeks. We were over the moon with excitement and anticipation. I notified HR and confirmed the leave benefits but I was told that those benefits are for maternity leave. I explained that by definition I do not qualify for maternity leave and asked whether they didn’t extend any of the benefits for those on maternity leave to new parents by adoption. Their answer was no, their policy was to top up the salary for new moms on maternity leave only. Those on parental leave did not qualify. I was shocked and heartbroken. I felt as if my employer was inferring that adoption was not the same as having a biological child and that I am not as deserving as someone who gave birth.
When I returned from parental leave, I brought forward the discriminatory policies at my workplace. I provided information on how other companies support families formed by adoption. I am thrilled and proud to share that, as a result, our company has changed their policies. They are now 100% inclusive for all families, no matter how they come together.
I strongly urge the federal government to do the same with parental leave. For the sake of our children, please provide the same supports and benefits to ALL families in Canada. Our families – most importantly, our children – deserve to be treated equally.
Sara (a mom via adoption)