Foster parents get quicker path to parental leave when adopting

(Jan. 4, 2012)   Foster parents will now find it easier to get paid time off work to bond with the child they plan to adopt.

The Canadian government has changed the eligibility criteria for Employment Insurance parental benefits when foster parents adopt.

No longer do foster parents need to submit to a court an application for adoption in order to qualify for benefits. They need only show they are committed to adopt the child they care for in order to be immediately eligible for parental benefits.

This is good news for children's aid societies running "foster-to-adopt" programs, which place children in a home for the purpose of adoption before the birth parents consent to the adoption or give up parental rights. Now if a child can't return to her birth family and becomes a Crown ward, the foster parents automatically become the adoptive family.

The news release from Human Resources and Skills Development Canada quoted Rod Potgieter, Executive Director of Family and Children's Services, St. Thomas and Elgin, as welcoming the change: "Given everything we know about children and attachment, the best model of service we can currently provide is foster-to-adopt. It is wonderful to see the model supported and encouraged by the federal government through parental leave benefits."

The government's FAQ on EI parental benefits says that biological or adoptive parents can get up to 35 weeks of parental leave. You would receive 55% of your salary, to a maximum of $485 per week. Two parents can share the 35 weeks of benefits. To be eligible you must work at least 600 hours in the 52 weeks before your benefits would start. (Quebec residents get their parental benefits through the Quebec Parental Insurance Plan.)

While this program improvement applies to foster parents, parental benefits under the EI program are provided to any mother or father to care for their newborn or newly-adopted child. Both domestic and international adoptions are eligible for parental benefits.
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