In December, American Express announced a raft of new parental benefits for employees, including 20 weeks paid parental leave, $35,000 of health coverage for infertility treatment, and $35,000 to cover costs associated with adoption or surrogacy.
That last one is notable. Less than half of US companies offer any kind of benefit for employees who become parents through adoption. The sheer expense of adoption—which in the US can add up to $40,000 with various fees for lawyers, agencies, counseling, and other services—turns many prospective families away from the process. Consequently, more than 20,000 children each year age out of the US foster system without being placed with a family.
Less than 0.5% of eligible employees typically use adoption benefits, according to the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption. For those who do, the money is life-changing, for parents and kids alike.
The Dave Thomas Foundation—started by the late Wendy’s CEO, who was himself adopted—keeps an annual ranking of the 100 best workplaces in the US for adoptive parents. Employers on the list offer an average of five weeks’ paid leave and $8,000 in adoption subsidies.
Last year, American Express ranked 31st, where it was tied with Capital One Financial, Franklin International, TransUnion, Traylor Bros. Inc., Turner, and QBE Americas Inc. This year, Amex jumped to first place after changing its benefits policies. The new benefits came into effect in January 2017. Previously, the credit-card and financial-services company offered employees up to $10,000 in adoption assistance.