South Mountain Company is adoption-friendly
The South Mountain Company (SMC) in West Tisbury recently received recognition on the Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces in America list. Offering its 32 associates up to $10,000 and four weeks of paid leave per adoption, SMC earned its place on the list among companies with thousands of employees.
The Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption (DTFA) compiles the adoption-friendly workplaces list of the top 100 organizations nationwide that provide exceptional support to employees who adopt children. Rankings are based on the amount of financial assistance and paid leave provided. This year, the foundation compiled the results from survey responses from 919 U.S. employers.
In addition to the top 100 list of adoption-friendly workplaces, the foundation also recognized the top 10 by size, the leaders of each industry, and companies that support the cause of adoption and adoptive families in other ways.
SMC, an employee-owned, resource-conscious design/build firm, ranked number one in the architecture, engineering, and construction industry for the second year in a row, and number one among small businesses nationwide with 1 to 100 employees.
In addition, SMC ranked number 10 in a four-way tie among the top ten adoption-friendly workplaces in America. With 30 employees at the time the list was made, SMC earned its place alongside companies employing thousands, including American Century Investments, Kansas City, Mo., 1,750 employees; Fannie Mae, Washington, D.C., 5,717 employees; and SAP, Philadelphia, Pa., 7,500 employees.
Putting SMC's benefits in place
SMC added adoption benefits after architectural designer Derrill Bazzy and his wife JoAnn Eccher of Aquinnah adopted two-week old Jacob (Jake) seven years ago. As the first SMC employee to adopt a child, Mr. Bazzy said he and his wife learned a lot about the adoption process in general, as well as ways to make it easier financially.
They also learned that some companies offered adoption benefits, which Mr. Bazzy said puzzled him at first. "And then as I read more about it, I thought, I can see the context of how in one sense a company provides a benefit at birth for a parent, and in another sense, adoption also is bringing a child into a family," Mr. Bazzy said. "It's a matter of making that benefit more fair across the board, as well as encouraging a great thing."
After he and his wife adopted Jake, Mr. Bazzy raised the subject of adding adoption benefits at SMC. "We began talking about how it would be great to set up a policy within the company for other people who might adopt in the future," he said. "Because we're an employee-owned company, when we were all done, we presented it to the board of directors - and they said, this is great."
Photo by Randi Baird
In addition to adding adoption benefits, the company agreed with an employee's suggestion to make them retroactive for Mr. Bazzy and his wife. "It was pretty touching that we were thought about that way, and it was a huge help for us," Mr. Bazzy said.
The company's support, coupled with tax benefits, eased financial concerns for the couple, and allowed Mr. Bazzy to stabilize his work schedule and focus on parenting with his wife.
Commenting on SMC's recognition as an adoption-friendly workplace, founder and president John Abrams said, "I give all the credit to Derrill, who really got it going, and to everybody else here who thought it was a good idea. It is really just something that goes along with all the benefits others get, so the adoption benefit is a great addition."
Mr. Bazzy agreed. "It's set up as something where it doesn't set an adoptive parent apart; it actually just folds them in with everyone else," he said. "I think that's one of the reasons South Mountain is such an enjoyable place to work, because the company thinks about employees as comprehensibly as possible."
The financial side of the adoption benefit was calculated on the basis of expenses that insurance would usually cover for a natural birth, which is not available in an adoption situation. Paternity and maternity leave is the same for adoptive and birth parents.
Although there have not been any other adoptions at SMC, Mr. Bazzy said he is sure there will be in the future. "It's been wonderful every step of the way, and I would recommend it to anyone," he said.
Photo by Danielle Zerbonne
The DTFA is a national nonprofit public charity foundation, created by Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy's international fast food restaurant chain. Mr. Thomas, who was adopted as a child, started the foundation in 1992, about 10 years before he died.
The foundation is the only one dedicated exclusively to foster care adoption and works to raise awareness about children in the American foster care system waiting to be adopted, currently about 129,000, according to DTFA executive director Rita Soronen.
In addition, the foundation encourages and supports adoption-friendly workplaces, offering free toolkits and technical assistance to help employers create adoption benefit policies.
"Our goal is that it just becomes a given, that when companies are creating their workplace packages, adoption benefits are in there, as much as anything else," Ms. Soronen said. "This isn't something that hits a company's bottom line in a big way. Less than one-half of one percent of employees across the board actually claim the benefit, but the payoff in terms of employee good will, the climate of the business, and attracting good employees far outweigh the small cost impact on businesses."
After the first adoption-friendly workplace list came out in 2007, Ms. Soronen said more than 50 organizations established or enhanced their adoption benefits. "We got calls throughout the past year from people asking, how do we get on the list, how do we get higher up on the list," she said. "We're so pleased that the adoption-friendly workplace program has really taken off and that the list has generated some great interest, and a little competition, in a good way, among employers on behalf of children and their families."
The foundation compiled this year's list from data received from 919 U.S. employers after mailing survey invitations to 40,000 business leaders, surveying human resource professionals at conferences, and collecting online survey responses. More information about the adoption-friendly workplace program and the survey can be found at the foundation's website, adoptionfriendlyworkplace.org.