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Flexibilities Available for Adoption

U.S. Office of Personnel Management

The Federal Government offers numerous leave and work scheduling flexibilities to assist employees in meeting their work and family obligations. The administration of these flexibilities typically is addressed in agency internal policies and/or collective bargaining agreements.

Sick Leave

An employee may use sick leave for purposes related to the adoption of a child. Examples include but are not limited to the following:

  1. Appointments with adoption agencies, social workers, and attorneys,
  2. Court proceedings,
  3. Required travel,
  4. Any periods of time during which adoptive parents are ordered or required by an adoption agency or by a court to take time off from work to care for the adopted child, and
  5. Any other activities necessary to allow the adoption to proceed.

An agency may request administratively acceptable evidence for the use of sick leave for absences related to adoption proceedings.

Both adoptive parents may use up to 12 weeks of sick leave each year to care for a child with a serious health condition. Both parents may use up to 13 days of that 12-week period to care for a child with a minor illness or to accompany a child to a medical, dental, or optical appointment. An agency may request administratively acceptable evidence of a child’s illness or treatment. Parents may not use sick leave to be absent from work to bond with or care for a healthy child.

Annual Leave

Adoptive parents may use annual leave for purposes related to the adoption of a child. In addition, adoptive parents may use annual leave to be absent from work to bond with or care for a healthy child. The use of annual leave is subject to the right of the supervisor to approve a time at which annual leave may be taken.

Advance Annual and Sick Leave

An agency may advance annual and/or sick leave for adoption-related purposes. An agency may advance the amount of annual leave an employee would accrue during the remainder of the leave year. An agency may advance a maximum of 30 days of sick leave to each parent for adoption-related purposes or to care for a child who is ill.

Family and Medical Leave

Each parent is entitled to use a total of up to 12 weeks of leave without pay under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) for adoption and care of a newly adopted child. Subject to the supervisor’s approval, FMLA leave may be used on an intermittent basis for absences in connection with adoption. An employee may elect to substitute annual leave and/or sick leave for any or all of the leave without pay used under the FMLA, consistent with the laws and regulations for using annual and sick leave. (See SICK LEAVE, above, for the limitations on the use of sick leave for adoption and family care.) An employee’s entitlement to FMLA leave expires 12 months following the date of placement of a child for adoption.

Donated Leave Under the Voluntary Leave Transfer and Leave Break Programs

If either the mother or father exhausts her or his sick and/or annual leave, she or he may receive donated annual leave under the employing agency’s voluntary leave transfer and/or leave bank programs. The Federal leave sharing program allows Federal employees to donate annual leave to assist another Federal employee who has a personal or family medical emergency and who has exhausted her or his own available paid leave. An employee may receive donated annual leave from both the agency leave transfer and leave bank programs. Donated annual leave may be used only for a medical emergency—e.g., to care for a child with a serious health condition—and may not be used to care for or bond with a healthy child.

Leave Without Pay

Subject to supervisory approval, both parents may use leave without pay for adoption proceedings or to be absent from work to bond with or care for a newly adopted child. Supervisors should refer to agency internal policy and negotiated bargaining union agreements prior to approval.

Flexible Work Schedules

If the work requirements and agency needs permit, an employee may consider working a flexible work schedule. Flexible work schedules enable employees to select and alter their work schedules to better fit their personal needs and help balance work, personal, and family responsibilities.


Under an agency’s telework policy, new parents may be permitted to work at home or from a remote telework site. Teleworking can provide employees with valuable additional time to spend with their family members by reducing commuting time. However, teleworkers should not be caring for family members while they are working from their home or alternative worksite.

Return to Leave and Holidays page.

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