Foster Care Placements and Adoptions Raise Issues Under the FMLA – Employee Benefit Plan Review

In an article published in the February issue of Employee Benefit Plan ReviewMatthew Teetor discusses foster care placements and adoptions under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Benefits and protections afforded to foster and adoptive parents are not clearly defined, as other issues have been more heavily litigated and discussed, such as an employee taking leave for a health condition.

“Due in no small part to the opioid epidemic and other societal factors, the number of foster care placements and adoptions nationwide continues to increase every year,” says Teetor. As a result of this, issues that were preexisting with the FMLA are now getting the necessary attention they need.

The FMLA regulations become confusing when specifically looking at fostering a child and adopting a child within the same 12-month period, as the current regulations do not differentiate between the foster placement and the adoption placement.

The term “placement” is not defined under the FMLA but it is fair to assume that the placement of a child, foster or adoptive, can be synonymous to the birth of a biological child. Teetor details, “It is unlikely that Congress intended that a foster parent who ultimately adopts that child would potentially be afforded twice the leave entitlement as a biological parent under this particular framework of the FMLA.”

While there is still uncertainty in this interpretation, having employers inform their employees of potential limitations in writing before an issue is raised, allows the employer to be more protected if an issue were to arise.