Education Requirements: Opportunity to Shift Office Identity


Adding children to a family comes after a long process, either pregnancy or adoption. There is one major distinction between these two journeys: visibility. One is more visible than the other. Once expecting parents announce their pregnancy, there is a visible sign of their changing status – the mother’s expanding belly. When expecting parents announce their adoption, there is no easily viewed signifier of their transformation.

If this adoption is your first child, this difference is important, especially in the work place. All of us occupy different roles in our offices, and others make unconscious assumptions about what is “reasonable.” Often those of us without children are unconsciously assumed to be more available for additional responsibilities, staying late to wrap up a project, or contributing after-hours efforts.

During pregnancy, our expanding waistline constantly reminds our coworkers that our status is changing. By the time our child arrives, our role in the office already started shifting. Coworkers are prepared when we need to leave promptly to get a child from daycare or stay home with a sick child. Supervisors mentally switch us to the “working parent” category.

Adopting a child is more invisible to those around us. As we wait for our child to join our family, there is no expanding waistline announcing the change. When adoption processes drag longer than expected, the significance and excitement will often fade. For those of us who are transitioning into the “working parent” role for the first time, the invisibility of the adoption process increases the challenge of preparing our coworkers for our new obligations and responsibility. We may remain in the dark about how “child-friendly” our workplace and supervisor may actually be in practice.

Adopting parent education – a valuable, mandatory and sizeable part of the adoption process – creates a unique opportunity to increase the visibility of our adoption for our colleagues, supervisors, and acquaintances. By asking for accommodation to participate in education classes as needed, we have an opportunity to shift unconscious expectations, and we may gain valuable insight into how flexible our office truly is.

MLJ, like other adoption agencies, requires adopting parents to complete education prior to their adoption. Some of these education requirements are mandated by law and others come from the learned experience of adult adoptees and veteran adopting parents. Completing the classes in a timely manner can sometimes be difficult for adopting parents. We do our best to offer each class at a variety of times, both in person and online. Often, families express a desire for more evening and weekend classes so they don’t need to disrupt their work day. I invite you to consider the challenge of completing education from a different angle.

Fitting these classes into the work day actually provides an opportunity for adopting parents to start to shift how others perceive their role at the workplace, especially for first-time parents. Making your supervisor aware of your concrete need to take a long lunch for parenting classes gives him or her a chance to prepare for when you will unexpectedly need to leave to take care of a sick child in the future. It creates an opportunity to start dialoguing with colleagues about the expectations for working parents, before your child is home. This opportunity, like the parenting classes themselves, will help prepare you to be the best parent possible to a child who has been adopted.

Photo Credit: Charles Pieters

For more information about MLJ’s international adoption programs, please click here.

MLJ Adoptions is a Non-Profit, Hague-Accredited adoption service provider located in Indianapolis, Indiana, working in Africa, Eastern Europe, Latin America and the Pacific Isles. We are passionate about serving children in need.