Dee Anderson holds her 18-month-old daughter, Milly, who was adopted from a family in Taiwan. (Photo courtesy Country Financial)
By Eric Stock
BLOOMINGTON - John and Dee Henderson quickly realized that the so-called paper pregnancy can last twice as long - and be nearly as painstaking - as the biological pregnancy.
After raising three children of their own: Kayley, 17, Sawyer, 15 and Micah, 11, the Bloomington couple said they felt a calling to adopt.
"(We) just kind of felt it in our hearts. We learned through (Eastview Christian Church) there are 147 million orphans in the world. Obviously, not all of them are going to be adopted, but quite a few friends and acquaintances had gone through the experience," John Henderson said.
They made their original request to adopt a child through the Portland-based All God's Children more than a year before the brought Milly home from Taiwan - in fact, the process started several months before she was born.
Henderson, a 47-year-old marketing research manager at Country Financial, took advantage of a relatively new adoption incentive at the Bloomington-based company. Country offers a $5,000 financial reimbursement to employees who adopt a child.
Henderson said adopting Milly cost the family about $40,000. He said the family held several fundraisers, including garage sales and an open mic night at Eastview.
He said knowing Country's Financial help was on the way gave the family hope.
"There's a lot of fundraising that you do, but to know that you have the money there makes it seem that much more possible," Henderson said.
Country is a part of what appears to be a growing number of companies that are incentivizing adoption, either as a humanitarian mission or a business practice to improve employee well-being.
Country's Vice President of Human Resources, Linda Klump, said offering adoption assistance serves both purposes.
"This is just a nice addition we could make. It seemed like the right thing to do," Klump said. "Even if you don't take advantage of (the adoption benefit), I think they are pleased to be part of an organization that does value adoption and how that helps everyone."
Klump said five Country Financial employees have used the adoption benefit in the two years it's been in place.
Henderson said he's noticed more than just a shift in sentiment from employers regarding adoption, he's noticed it in the community at large.
Henderson recalled a recent vacation to Wisconsin where the sight of his family with a Taiwanese daughter drew stares from onlookers and awkward questions like, 'How much did she cost?'
"Here in Bloomington-Normal, it just seems like people might say, 'She's so cute,' but they don't think it's abnormal to have a family with two ethnicities in it," Henderson said.
Country isn't the only local employer that offers some adoption assistance, in addition to the 12 weeks of unpaid leave time available per year under the federal Family Medical Leave Act.
- State Farm reimburses up to $5,000 per child and up to four weeks of paid leave time.
- Advocate BroMenn offers up to $4,000 reimbursement per child for a full-time employee and $2,000 for a part-time employee ($8,000 lifetime maximum).
- Illinois State University offers up to $1,500 in reimbursement for adoption of a waiting child (minority child age 3 or under or Caucasian child age 11 and over) or $1,000 for any other child. The guidelines are set by the Illinois Department of Central Management Services.
- Mitsubishi Motors has adoption covered in its employee legal services plan. The company pays for the legal process of getting a child's name changed.
Eric Stock can be reached at email@example.com.