When our Service Department's Christine Pilgrim and her husband, Miles, decided to take in a 13-year-old foster child three years ago, they had no idea how much their lives would change—for good. Not only did they quickly come to love their daughter, Rainy, but Pilgrim says she has never felt more at home with what she considers a family at New York Life.
New York Life’s generous adoption benefit policy (see below) helped Pilgrim, who works in the San Antonio General Office, support her growing family’s transition. And it gave a new mother time to bond with her new daughter.
Kids like Rainy who have no stable home of their own often end up in state children’s shelters or state residential treatment facilities, Pilgrim says. It’s a rough road for those who do. Rainy had been placed in a shelter and had run away and was basically “on the run” for three months before ending up in the Pilgrim home.
Pilgrim and her husband decided to take Rainy as a foster child, and within about a year, they moved to adopt her. That’s when a coworker mentioned the company’s Adoption Assistance Program, which Pilgrim assumed was meant for new mothers of adopted babies. But after researching it further, she found it was for all eligible new adoptive parents at New York Life.
And its financial support and paid leave benefits are significant, according to Jerry Lee of Human Resources. Adoptive families often incur agency placement and legal fees, court costs, medical expenses for the birth mother, and related travel expenses. The company reimburses up to $10,000 in eligible adoption expenses (for one child per family, per year).
For Pilgrim, the company’s parental leave benefit was the greatest unexpected gift. Employees who adopt can take up to six months leave including up to four weeks of paid new parent benefit to bond with their new child. That meant that Pilgrim, who has worked for New York Life for 21 years, could afford to spend the first month of Rainy’s new life as Pilgrim’s daughter with her, making memories.
First things first
Even so, Pilgrim couldn’t help but worry about missing work: Summer is a busy time, and many of her colleagues had already scheduled vacations. But her supervisor, Michael Willis, worked around scheduling issues and made sure she could take time off after the adoption was finalized. “I might have felt guilty, but he was so supportive,” Pilgrim says. “He made it really easy to feel good about taking the time off.”
Since school was out, Pilgrim and her new daughter made the most of it: They got their nails done, went to the amusement park, roller skated, ice skated, swam. They did everything fun they could possibly imagine. “She’d been with us for over a year, but that month gave us one-on-one time I wouldn’t have had otherwise,” Pilgrim says.
Now well settled in and 16, Rainy is a great student and sets a good example for her friends, her mom says. She even worked to earn a down payment for her own car. “She’s so happy. She knows she belongs with us, and she has a future,” Pilgrim says. “It’s the best thing we could have ever done.”
So was taking the time to welcome her to the family.
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