To help ease the process, First Reliance Bank offers assistance for associates who welcome a foster or adopted child into their family.
By Rachel Hatcher
of adults considering international adoption are concerned about being able to pay for it
The road for couples and families looking to adopt is littered with hurdles. Maybe they’re still saving up to accommodate the costs, or their employer isn’t willing to provide the time off necessary for a child to adjust to their new home.
First Reliance Bank, a $925 million-asset community bank in Florence, S.C., has made strides to break down these barriers.
According to the national nonprofit Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption, finances are a concern for 54% of adults considering adoption from foster care and 76% for international adoption. To ease concerns like this for their employees, First Reliance Bank established its Adoption Assistance Policy, which provides financial reimbursement for adopting families.
The community bank grants program participants up to $14,500, which can go towards adoption expenses such as public and private adoption agency fees, legal fees, medical and travel expenses, and other associated costs. In addition, FRB provides eight weeks of paid leave. If an employee is new to adoption, founder and CEO Rick Saunders and his wife, Tiffany, make themselves available to offer advice.
A personal connection
Saunders is a strong advocate for adoption, having personally experienced the process. After Tiffany experienced three miscarriages, she and Saunders decided to adopt a child. However, after they had begun the process of adopting a little girl in 2003, they discovered Tiffany was pregnant. Despite that, Saunders and his wife chose to go through with the adoption.
“We just were already in love with her,” says Saunders. “We already had her pictures.” Their daughter became the namesake for the community bank’s additional financial adoption resource, Reagan’s Promise Fund, which is funded by employee contributions and profits from branded product sales.
Saunders takes pride in First Reliance Bank’s adoption benefits. “Anytime the company can help the people who work for them chase their passions, their love for life and family and their work—I just think it creates a culture and an environment where people love being there, and they’re not just chasing the dollar.”
As a testament to the community bank’s dedication, the Dave Thomas Foundation for Adoption recently recognized First Reliance Bank in its 100 Best Adoption-Friendly Workplaces.
Adoption can be a difficult journey, but it proved life-changing for Saunders’ family. When he and his wife brought Reagan home, she struggled with health issues brought on by mistreatment within the system. Yet in a short time, they saw a huge change in her. “You could see the changes mentally, emotionally and physically in her just in a few weeks,” Saunders says, “and it was a completely new life for her.”
Even with doctors’ predictions that Reagan would struggle with memory retention, she is now 20 years old and a Dean’s List student at her college. Saunders and his wife later went on to adopt another daughter, 14-year-old Riley.
“I do think our people are really highly engaged, and a lot of that has to do with programs like this that say, ‘My employer cares enough about family and about the people who work here that this is the kind of place I want to work.”
—Rick Saunders, First Reliance Bank
Saunders hopes the community bank’s program will encourage employees to pursue adoption and make a difference in a child’s life. He says one to two bank associates take advantage of the adoption benefits every year, but many others appreciate the sentiment and support that the program offers.
“My First Reliance family provides me the flexibility to care for my family and the children I take into my care,” says one employee who fosters and adopts. “Being a working mother is a challenge, but at First Reliance, I truly feel respected for what my husband and I try to do for these children.”
Saunders also believes that accommodating adopting families should be the norm. He says, “I do think our people are really highly engaged, and a lot of that has to do with programs like this that say, ‘My employer cares enough about family and about the people who work here that this is the kind of place I want to work.’”
But his reasoning for the program goes beyond just the positive effect it has on his bank. “Anybody who can help family, be a part of that and build their own families,” he says, “I think it’s a good thing for our world, and it’s a good thing for our country.”
Rachel Hatcher is assistant editor of Independent Banker.