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HR @ Your Service
In a significant milestone for MIT Benefits, a member of the MIT community recently became the first person to benefit from the Institute's new Adoption Assistance Program, which provides up to $5,000 per finalized adoption for all benefits-eligible MIT employees.
The program was born from the recognition that there are many way to build families. "We wanted MIT employees to know that we're friendly to all ways of having children," explains Vice President for Human Resources Alison Alden. In the early days of Alden's tenure at MIT, she met with the Council on Family and Work, which advocated for the benefit and dedicated time and energy to seeing it come to fruition.
The primary objectives of the council, currently co-chaired by Suzanne Flynn and Marc Jones, are to identify and evaluate family- and work-related issues, and to develop recommendations for MIT's senior administration. It consists of faculty, staff and student members. "I was struck by the passion with which the council supported this program," notes Alden, who, after hearing about the proposal, championed it to its Jan. 1 start.
Adoption resources for MIT employees
Along with the Council on Work and Family, Adoptive Families at MIT (AFMIT) was also instrumental in facilitating the creation of the Adoption Assistance Program. AFMIT was created in 2000 by two MIT adoptive parents and has since grown to include more than 140 families in the Greater Boston area.
AFMIT members Rachel Jellinek, Professor Sally Haslanger and Diane Betz Tavitian note the important step MIT has taken to affirm family-building through adoption: "This long-awaited measure bridges the gap in equity between nonadoptive and adoptive families and will positively impact prospective adoptive parents and the children they bring into their families." (Visit web.mit.edu/adoption/about/index.html for more information on AFMIT.)
In addition to AFMIT, the Center for Work, Family and Personal Life provided support for creation of the benefit and offers information on adoption resources at MIT as well as confidential consultations on adoption or issues related to adoption. (E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call 617-253-1592).
Below are some specific details on how the new Adoption Assistance Program works.
Who is eligible?
All benefits-eligible employees may apply for the benefit upon adopting a child under the age of 18. Employees must be actively employed, or on approved paid or unpaid leave, at the time the expenses take place and at the time the adoption is finalized. The plan is open to couples, single individuals and same-sex couples. If two adoptive parents are MIT employees, only one employee is eligible for reimbursement per adoption. The child being adopted may not be the child of an employee's spouse or domestic partner.
What is the benefit?
The program provides a benefit of up to $5,000 per finalized adoption for eligible expenses, not to exceed a lifetime benefit of $20,000 per employee.
Examples of expenses
Eligible expenses are those considered necessary expenses, consistent with federal income tax guidelines and include: agency and placement fees; travel expenses, such as transportation, lodging and meals; medical expenses for the child not otherwise covered by insurance; temporary foster care provided before the placement of the child in the employee's home; immigration, immunization and translation fees; and court costs and legal fees.
The program has been designed to take advantage of certain federal income tax provisions regarding such reimbursements. Special provisions have been made for qualified adoption expenses that occurred in 2007 before the program start date of Jan. 1, 2008. For more details on these provisions and the Adoption Assistance Program, please visit hrweb.mit.edu/benefits/adoption/index.html.
HR @ Your Service is a monthly column from Human Resources.