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Photo by Ashworth Photography / Scott Hagie and wife Beth took advantage of a Unum adoption benefit to help defray expenses relating to Charlotte, sitting in Scott's lap, joining their family. Their other children are Reagan, back, and Chloe.

Chattanooga-based Unum has upped its game when it comes to providing help to employees who want to adopt, increasing a lump-sum benefit from $5,000 to $25,000.

"Offering financial support to employees expanding their families is another way we can help working parents thrive," said Liz Ahmed, executive vice president of people and communications for the employee benefits company.

Private domestic and international adoptions average upwards of $43,000, not including lost wages from work to bond with the child once adopted, according to a survey by Adoptive Families Magazine.

"Adoption is an important avenue to consider for people growing their families, but it can be expensive," said Ahmed.

Unum employee Scott Hagie, a manager in the benefits area, and wife Beth adopted last year and took advantage of the $5,000 benefit.

"It was something that was always in our hearts," said Hagie about the adoption and noting the couple have two children who are biologically their's. "We wanted to grow our family in a different capacity."

They traveled to China last March to pick up their adopted child named Charlotte, he said.

Hagie, 39, said there are a lot of expenses related to adopting, adding that there are "dozens and dozens of tiny fees. All kinds of stuff."

He estimated their costs hit about $30,000, which he termed "fairly common." Hagie called Unum's higher benefit amount "outstanding."

"It may make it a reality for some folks," he said. "Coming up with $25,000 is hard to do. That benefit may make it a possibility for others. I hope they take advantage of it."

Unum spokeswoman Kelly Spencer said the adoption assistance program has been around at the company for more than 10 years. Use of the $5,000 benefit has been steady over the years with less than 10 employees using it annually, she said.

For part-time employees, the amount of the benefit is based on scheduled weekly hours, Spencer said.

She said the benefit is given in one lump sum. Once an employee completes the adoption and submits a certificate, the benefit appears the next paycheck, the company spokeswoman said.

Nationally, she said, a report shows that 10% of employers provide adoption assistance, which is up from 7% in 2015.

"While adoption assistance programs in the workplace aren't new, the increased benefit amount Unum provides is progressive," Spencer said.

One reason the company ratcheted up the benefit was to match the sum provided employees who receive infertility assistance, which was increased in 2018, she said.

Unum, which has about 10,000 employees companywide, also offers six weeks of leave for new parents after birth, adoption or becoming a foster parent.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.

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