Did Starbucks Just Take Away Leave From Foster & Adoptive Parents?

I’m a foster/adoptive parent — and like most parents — I LOVE coffee.

I’m also an advocate for the rights of foster and adoptive children so I hear a lot about the challenges faced by our community. The paid family leave policies at most of the places we work are unfair to our families. Most companies give much more time off to new biological mothers than they do to fathers and adoptive parents.

So I was excited to read headlines about a “great” new parental leave policy at Starbucks that extended 12 weeks of paid parental leave to new parents who work in the corporate office birth and non-birth alike. Other companies like Ikea and Deloitte have also recently announced policies that are inclusive of ALL parents and families.

But then I took a closer look at Starbucks’ policy. While birth moms who work in Starbucks stores can take 6 weeks paid, birth dads and adoptive parents get nothing.

And it gets worse — Starbucks current policy offers 6 weeks to adoptive parents who work in the stores — which means that when the new policy takes effect on Oct 1 — it appears that baristas who are adoptive parents will lose this critical benefit! This is simply wrong and needs to be rectified — which is why I’m urging Starbucks to do the right thing and extend its new policy to ALL employees.

I don’t make it to Starbucks very often (I’m busy parenting my children after all), but I’ve always had a ton of respect for the benefits the company offers its employees, it was one of the few places my housemate could get healthcare in the pre-Affordable Care era. I also know several foster or adoptive parents who worked there in the past and it hurts my heart to think that they would be kicked off this formerly generous policy.

When I saw Starbucks’ new policy, my heart really went out to the current and future foster/adoptive parents. Adopting or fostering a new child is a wonderful event, but also a huge disruption and requires time to get settled into a new family. Even in fostering there can be huge upfront costs for things like day care. Without access to paid parental leave, adoptive families are left to struggle without support — we need to change this!

I know what it’s like to not have paid leave, because neither my partner and I did when we became foster parents. So it was that two days after our 8 week old foster daughter arrived in hour home, irritable in her new environment and looking at us with deep skepticism that hadn’t yet turned into her abiding love, we had to send her to daycare. We were lucky to find loving, affordable care within walking distance of our house, but not every family is so fortunate, and some children need far more care when they arrive than our daughter did. I can’t imagine what it would be like to be counting on that benefit, not knowing when a child will arrive in your home, only to lose it because your employer changed their policy.

As one of the largest employers in the country, I urge Starbucks’ to take the commitment of non-birth parents seriously. Starbucks’ please expand your policy to ALL employees — including paid leave for in-store non-birth parents. Because in-store Starbucks employees are the backbone of your company and it is completely unfair to write them out of your new parental policies.