Making the decision to apply to adopt, especially as a single person, was a life changing decision.
Louisa describes her journey to win equal maternity rights for adoptive parents in Dorset
Having worked for the County Council Children’s Services for the past 17 years, including in social work, adoption felt like the right fit for me.
One of my first considerations was to look at how I would cope financially. As a manager of several Sure Start Children’s Centres and having several staff on maternity leave, I was aware that the occupational element of maternity pay would certainly help me financially to take a year off to bond and settle with my new arrival when an adoption match was made.
It was at this point that I discovered that Dorset did not pay the occupational element to adoptive parents; you were only entitled to ‘maternity pay’ if you have a birth child. This was an utter shock and surprise as almost all statutory pay and employments rights relating to maternity and adoption leave are the same. Convinced it was an error, I contacted Amanda Brown at UNISON, who linked me with the Women’s Advisor in our branch of the union, Becky Brookman.
It wasn’t an error. UNISON too were surprised that such a a distinction was made and looking into this Becky found out that no other public sector organisation in the whole of the South of England made this distinction between adoptive new parents and those having birth children. This was a huge blow for me as it meant that I could not possibly afford to adopt a child at all; I was devastated, with a mortgage and bills to pay – there was no way I could afford to adopt.
UNISON were brilliant and raised the issue with the County Council, and I am delighted to say that after a year of championing the policy has now changed!
When I heard the news – it was very emotional! Any parent adopting who works for the County Council will now be entitled to the same pay as those who have birth children. I am delighted to say that I am now progressing though with my adoption application – this change of policy has meant that I can now (hopefully!) become a parent. A massive thank you to UNISON!