How Working Mother's Best Companies Help Moms With Special Needs Kids | Working Mother

The Amazing Ways the Working Mother 100 Best Companies Help Their Employees with Kids (Particularly Those with Special Needs)

These companies know that helping moms with their children’s challenges is the best way to keep them loyal, engaged and productive.

Holding hands

Top companies recognize that childcare and family issues are what's important to their working mom employees.

Photo: Photoalto/Alamy

When Davila Niesen’s youngest son, Riley, was 3, his beloved faith-based daycare in Plano, TX, broke the news to the family that they simply couldn’t meet his needs because of his combination of autism, an intellectual disability and other neurological matters that required extensive testing. The teachers said they spent as much time managing his behavior as the other 11 kids in his class combined.

For Davila, a busy public accountant at Ernst & Young LLP, the challenge of immediately finding replacement childcare for Riley and after-school care for his older brother, Brady, then 7, could’ve been disastrous (all the research, screening and interviews). Instead, she placed one call to EY Assist, the firm’s free, unlimited employee-assistance program, which contacted nanny agencies and narrowed down the list of possibilities. In addition to childcare referrals, EY Assist serves as the clearinghouse for autism-treatment support, homework help, tutoring services, college coaching, emotional support and substance-abuse counseling, referral services for teens, resources for children with special needs, and access to individual consultants to assist with identifying and using appropriate school services.

“They were able to find an agency with a lady looking for employment who had 13 years’ experience as a special-education aide in the public-school system,” recalls Davila, now an executive director in EY’s indirect-tax practice based in Dallas. “She wound up working for us for four years until my youngest was in a more traditional full-day school.”

With paid parental leave and backup childcare increasingly standard at the Working Mother 100 Best Companies, employers are looking for other ways to support their workforce’s caregiving needs—and differentiate themselves in the war for talent. More and more, this means benefits for children with autism and other special needs, as well as programs for older school-age children. Of this year’s 100 Best Companies, 94 percent provide emotional-support counseling for teens and tweens, 88 percent offer support for treating employees’ children with autism, 63 percent facilitate college coaching, 41 percent have tutoring services and 25 percent give employees a homework hotline. While there’s a fee for some of these, others are free.

Take Adobe Systems: It enhanced its paid time off in 2015 for family care, and medical, parental and maternity leave, but it also offers networks and support for employees whose children have special needs, and both counseling and life-stage “care kits” for pregnancy, infants, toddlers, active adults and elders. They contain educational materials and fact sheets as well as handy items like a bib for babies and a pillbox for eldercare.

“It’s the coolest thing for individuals like myself who have older kids to see their employers not just work on maternity, paternity and adoption benefits,” says Barbara Dieker, mom of Rebecca, 17, and Alex, 13, and senior director of customer research and insights in Adobe’s San Jose, CA, headquarters. “When I see my employer committed to following you as you age, it makes me feel more committed to the company.”

Barbara spoke four times with college coaches who helped Rebecca choose classes for her junior and senior years of high school. The coaches developed a list of colleges that would likely be a good fit for her interests, at all levels of selectiveness.

“It saves me thousands of dollars,” says Barbara, a single mom. “I make a great living at Adobe, but this is money that I don’t have to apply to making college trips. I can use it elsewhere.”

For Discovery Communications, innovations include on-site wellness centers and private rooms that are available for therapists to treat employees’ kids with special needs who attend the on-site daycare. “Discovery recognizes that employees go through a variety of life transitions. Sometimes they’re welcomed, sometimes not,” says Jessica Lee, director of global lifeworks and inclusion and human resources business partner. “If we can provide programs that help our people navigate life’s moments, we’ll do it.”

When Kim Skinner, bulk operations manager at Monsanto’s St. Louis, MO, headquarters, needed help navigating care options for her youngest son Gavin’s congenital heart defect, the company’s benefits advocate walked her through the medical bills, insurance payments and mountain of paperwork. “It definitely saved a lot of time and probably money,” says Kim, also mom to Colin, 21, and Duncan, 16.

Now that Gavin is 13 and has been diagnosed with Asperger’s, Kim relies on Monsanto’s resources from the Rethink autism-support website to set goals and track progress. She had a phone consultation with a behavior therapist whose suggestions helped her son with social skills. “He’s definitely made some strides this year, starting conversations that he otherwise would not have,” she says.

EY has taken its commitment to supporting kids with autism a step further with a new program to hire adults with autism to work in areas where their unique skills are assets. “At EY, we value people with all abilities, and embrace variation in physical, cognitive and socio-emotional abilities as just another form of diversity,” says Stephen R. Howe, EY U.S. chairman and managing partner and EY Americas managing partner. “Our neurodiversity program leverages the special skill sets often found in individuals on the autism spectrum and enable client-serving professionals to be more productive and efficient.”

Morgan Stanley starts supporting parent employees right at the beginning of their journey with infant transition counseling, which helps expectant parents prepare for and welcome a new baby. The financial-services firm also offers parents a service that connects them to a second medical opinion in the case of a family member’s illness. But ultimately, the signals from the top matter most, says Susan Reid, global head of diversity and inclusion. “It’s clear that if you don’t create a work-place and culture that allows families to thrive first, you just can’t have a productive workforce,” Reid says.

Davila agrees. “The one thing I can absolutely say is that I would not have had a successful 30-year career in public accounting without EY.”

Childcare Choices

Great companies have been offering help with childcare for decades to support working moms. Recently though, the Best Companies have come up with innovative ways to make sure parents know their kids are having fun while they get their work done.

When Kim Skinner, who was working from her home office in central Illinois, took a trip to her employer Monsanto’s St. Louis, MO, headquarters, she decided to bring her baby boy Duncan along. The company paid for her mom to join them so she could care for him while Kim attended meetings.

“These types of benefits go a long way in creating a culture where people want to sign up, grow and stay, and contribute to business and customer outcomes,” says Melissa Harper, vice president of global talent and inclusion and diversity.

Corporate childcare options don’t simply include on-site daycare anymore, since companies realize employees and their kids have a wide variety of preferences and needs when it comes to keeping kids occupied and happy during the workday.

Here are the percentages of the 100 Best Companies that offer each type of childcare program:

• Paying for a child’s caregivers to travel with parents on business trips: 9%

• Subsidies at near-site childcare centers: 19%

• Subsidies at on-site childcare centers: 27%

• Travel childcare reimbursement: 33%

• Before- and after-hours childcare: 43%

• Before- and after-school childcare: 47%

• Summer-program childcare: 57%

• School-holiday childcare: 71%

• Childcare referral services: 91%

• Backup childcare: 92%


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