Baylor’s robust adoption benefits programs receive national recognition

Baylor faculty members Michael and Deanna Estepp utilized Baylor's adoption benefits program when adopting their daughter Kara. Photo courtesy of Michael and Deanna Estepp

By Tyler White | Staff Writer

Baylor has been recognized by the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption as one of the nation’s top educational institutions to provide adoption benefits programs to employees. The university gives assistance to employees who are either fostering or adopting children.

Cheryl Gochis, vice president for human resources and chief human resources officer, said the adoption assistance program began in 2017. The program provides up to $10,000 of financial support for paperwork during the adoption process, as well as up to six weeks of paid parental leave.

“When we began the adoption benefit in 2017, it was really a recommendation, suggestion, even a plea, from an employee who said we need to do this,” Gochis said. “And so that really set the wheels in motion to start our adoption benefit program.”

As a parent, Gochis said it’s important for an institution to show its support for families going through the process. She said the adoption assistance program shows that Baylor is willing to help its employees through such an important decision.

“You’re doing international adoption, and that benefit and that help that’s given along the way — very similar to what our program does — it is that thing that just makes it a little bit easier,” Gochis said. “For us, we’ve never had adoption in our family, and so to help and know that your organization supports you in that as you’re making this huge life decision is so critical. And so we were very, very appreciative of that.”

Hank Steen, director of benefits, said the robust list of financial aid is vital in assisting families through the process.

“I haven’t gone through the adoption process, but … a big part of it, aside from the emotional piece of it, is just the financial piece of it, and that’s a big roadblock for people,” Steen said. “This benefit — when it came along, it really bridged the gap that they were needing to take that next step.”

Steen said an important factor moving forward is continuing to listen to employees who use the program about potential improvements.

“What are roadblocks that are keeping you from either adopting or foster care? What does that look like?” Steen said. “Are there things that we can do to improve the benefit to make it easier for you or to help bridge another gap that maybe we just are not aware of?”

As the program continues to develop, Gochis said it goes beyond those who take advantage of the program because it also impacts those at the university who see what the assistance is accomplishing.

“It’s really interesting because not a lot of our employees take advantage of this program, and we don’t have hundreds of employees adopting every year,” Gochis said. “However, many of our employees will tell us, ‘I’m not going to utilize the program, or we’re not really at that point, but I’m so glad that Baylor offers the program to my coworkers, to my colleagues.’ It’s important to them. So I think that’s one of the neat parts of this benefit: Even if you don’t use it, you’re really thrilled that Baylor has that program.”

Tyler White is a senior Journalism major from Yorba Linda, California, with minors in religion and philosophy. He is most looking forward to developing his writing and reporting craft in the Lariat and to work alongside other writers. As a member of the Baylor Coed Cheer team, he enjoys supporting all Baylor sports. After graduation, he plans on going to grad school and eventually working in publication for the music industry.