Flying tens of thousands of feet above mainland China this past January, Diane Caudill's primary focus wasn't on finding the Great Wall, as is often the case with many travelers.
Instead, with her husband, Steve, and two near adolescent-age children in tow, Caudill's focus was on something far greater - something that, weighing only a few pounds, had little chance of ever being spotted from such an altitude, but in whose existence lived the Caudill family's sky-high dreams.
Today, the realization of those dreams reside in 16-month-old "Baby Grace" who the Caudills brought home from China, the culmination of a two-year adoption process in part financed by a new employee benefit offered by New Hanover Regional Medical Center that helps defray the often-steep costs associated with adoption.
"I'd always had a very strong desire to go to China and adopt a child," said Caudill, an echocardiography technologist in NHRMC's Non-Invasive Cardiac Lab. "Grace was abandoned to an orphanage at three months before being placed in foster care."
Known as the adoption assistance benefit, which became effective January 1, the benefit offers all benefit-eligible employees financial assistance of up to $3,000 for adopting a child. The amount is based on what NHRMC would spend for employees who give birth using the hospital's medical plan.
For Karen Curran, NHRMC's Director of Compensation and Benefits, the new benefit is just another way of enriching the lives of hospital employees and their families through competitive and supportive programs.
"We always try to be as progressive as possible in the benefits we offer our employees," Curran said. "The opportunity to offer this kind of benefit, to improve the quality of life of employees and the adopted children in their care, was a no-brainer."
Monies may be used for a range of adoption-related expenses, including legal and medical fees as well as travel and lodging, Curran said. In some instances, adoptions can cost tens of thousands of dollars.
"I was really surprised and pleased to learn of this benefit," said Caudill. "It means I work for a place that cares about families and children."
After spending four days in Beijing with a guide, the Caudill family headed to an orphanage in southeastern China to meet a little girl they knew only by photo.
"Our 'Gotcha day' was January 30," said Caudill, referring to Grace's adoption day. "We were absolutely overwhelmed with joy. They put her in our arms, and we knew she was ours."
Nothing, however, could prepare them for their trip's other inevitable "gotcha," the stark reality of tens of thousands of young girls in orphanages waiting to be adopted. The government’s one-child policy, along with China's centuries-old preference for boys, results in many of these abandonments.
Realities like these are just one reason Caudill hopes other NHRMC employees will take advantage of the adoption assistance benefit.
“Because of this wonderful benefit and the overall support of the hospital, hopefully more people will be encouraged to adopt who couldn’t otherwise afford it,” she said.
For more information on NHRMC’s adoption assistance benefit, contact the Human Resources department at 343.7049.