Mandy Kwasnica and her husband’s lifelong dream to add children to their family has come true.
The couple recently brought two children — Anya, 9, and Artem, 11 — to Canada after adopting them from the Ukraine (the new family of four is pictured above).
“The second day we saw them, [Anya] had cards for us and one of them said ‘Mama’ and the other one said ‘Papa’ and our hearts were just melting already,” said Kwasnica in a video about her adoption journey. “We met our children on our 20-year anniversary, which is the most incredible thing we ever could have possibly imagined happen[ing].”
Kwasnica, a manager of mortgage sales support at Manulife Bank of Canada, and her high-school sweetheart decided to adopt about two years ago after “facing challenges” trying to add to their family. The couple knew adopting can be an expensive proposition, but they were willing to pay whatever it cost to add to their family, even if it meant dipping into their retirement savings or remortgaging their house.
But the couple didn’t have to go that route, thanks, in part, to Kwasnica’s employer-provided benefits. In early 2020, Manulife Financial Corp. officially introduced reimbursement of up to $20,000 per year for adoption and surrogacy support and fertility medication. It then announced further support for Canadian employees, providing 20 weeks of paid maternity leave and 12 weeks of paid parental and adoption leave, effective Jan. 1, 2021. Since the introduction of this enhanced leave, the organization has seen an increase in employees taking the leaves and the overall reaction from the workforce has been positive, according to a Manulife spokesperson.
Kwasnica is currently on maternity leave after the long process of adopting two children from another country, which was complicated due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. While the details of her path to parenthood are unique, many Canadian employees take different paths to having children these days.
Approximately one in six couples in Canada experience infertility and that rate has more than doubled since the 1980s, according to the Government of Canada. And employers have taken note of the uptick with some, including Manulife and Telus Communications Inc., provides extended benefits to employees struggling with fertility.
“We know what it means for so many of our colleagues to have a family and we’re proud to provide this valuable support to help them achieve this important dream,” said Pam Kimmet, chief human resources officer at Manulife, in a press release. “As the needs of our employees evolve, the benefits we offer have to as well. . . . Families take many forms, such as single parents, same-sex couples and transitioning transgender family members and we look to support these different journeys.”