2/22/2015

An open letter to our elected officials in the State of Iowa...

To the men and women elected to represent the people of our great state:

My name is Shelley.

My husband and I are parents to two little girls.

We adopted them when they were babies.

Meet Olivia.
She was born in Texas in 2013.

And here's our youngest, Kendra.
She was born right here in the Hawkeye state about a month ago.

Regardless of what party you're a member of and what you stand for, I think we can all agree these two gals are flippin' adorable.

[And I kinda feel like I can brag about 'em because we share ZERO DNA...]

Anyway, I digress...

I know you're busy shaping and making public policy, so let me get to the point.

I'm writing to tell you how important Senate File 375 is for families like mine.

This bill essentially states if a company offers an employee paid maternity leave (often times through short-term disability), that company should be required to extend the same maternity leave for an adoptive parent.

I know. I know.

It's groundbreaking, right?

But before some of you shake your heads because you're wondering who will pay for that "paid time off," let me tell you a story.

A true story.

My husband -- a social worker -- and I -- a former television news reporter -- had 12-hours notice to catch a flight and meet our daughter in a hospital hundreds of miles from home.
That moment was the greatest moment in our lives.

The painful years of infertility, the paperwork and financial and emotional expenses of the adoption process were finally coming to fruition.

But hours after leaving the hospital with our new daughter, I started getting phone calls from work.

"When are you coming back?" asked my Human Resources representative.

Mind you, our new family of three was crammed inside a studio hotel room hundreds of miles from home waiting for approval to head back to Iowa with our new daughter.

The Human Resources representative from my work made it clear:

I was under contract to continue working, and I was not eligible for any paid time off minus my [limited] pool of vacation because I did not physically give birth to my daughter.

I was days shy of being eligible for FMLA, and I could not cash out my sick time because I did not physically give birth to my child.

Less than two weeks after I held my new daughter in my arms for the first time and told her with overwhelming joy, "I'm your Mommy," I was back to chasing news stories 45+ hours a week.

I had less than one week at home with my precious little girl.

We had no diapers for her, no bottles, no clothes, no routine, no time to bond, no daycare lined up because state law requires a child be at least six weeks old prior to dropping off at a childcare center...the list goes on.

But most importantly, I was robbed of paid time off with my daughter because I did not give birth to her.

Some of my colleagues went on to have children during the remainder of my contractual employment.

Because they physically gave birth to their children, they were given weeks of paid-time off with their new bundle of joy.

Weeks.

I got nothing.

Because I did not physically give birth to my daughter, I was denied the same opportunities that were extended to my colleagues.

And the worst part -- it's perfectly legal.

While I understand the objective for "maternity leave" in many cases is to allow a new mother a few weeks to recover from the physical labor of childbirth, I would argue this time off also allows her time to bond with her child, form a routine and not worry about losing her job or affording to live while spending time with her new family.

I'm not the only one who has been discriminated against in the workplace because of how my husband and I chose to grow our family.

There are many more.

Miki, Jessica, Erika, Sue, Melissa, Christy, Lauren, Kelly ...the list goes on of hardworking, taxpaying Iowans who have experienced the same unfairness in the workplace as I have.

I'm asking you -- the elected officials in the State of Iowa -- to support SF 375.

Some of you are mothers.

Some of you are fathers.

Some of you are grandparents. Aunts. Uncles.

And some of you may not even like kids.

But let me tell you something.

Every child deserves a family.

And every family should be treated equally in the workplace and by the letter of the law.

This post was edited on 3/9/2015 to reflect the changes in the potential legislation. House File 116 and Senate File 225 were changed to Senate File 375.