For the second year in a row, Conceive ranks Citizens Financial Group/RBS Americas as No. 1 among the 50 Best Fertility-Friendly and Adoption-Friendly Companies in the United States.
Citizens Financial Group is a commercial bank holding company with headquarters in Providence, Rhode Island. Its parent company is RBS (the Royal Bank of Scotland). There are some 24,000 employees in the United States who work at more than 1,600 offices and branches (many of them in supermarkets) in the Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, and Midwest states.
“It is so great working at Citizens,” says Bernard L. Meighen Jr., vice president of credit review for Citizens Financial Group in Cleveland, Ohio. “We spent $21,000 to adopt our little girl; we were reimbursed $20,500. To me, this [adoption] benefit shows Citizens cares about families and children. ”
Meighen is one of 135 employees at Citizens who have collectively adopted 150 children since 1996, when adoption assistance was first introduced at the company. The benefit is available to all employees, regardless of marital status or sexual orientation.
“We have provided more than $1 million in adoption assistance to these colleagues and couldn’t be more pleased with the results,” says Alissa Cartun, regional head of compensation and benefits for Citizens Financial Group/RBS Americas. “Both [adoption and fertility] benefits have been wonderful retention tools and have worked as great recruiting tools to attract new colleagues.
“By offering monetary assistance to our colleagues who want to adopt a child or who are going through fertility treatments, the financial burden for them is eased,” adds Cartun. “Adoption and fertility treatments are very expensive. Without the bank’s generous medical plan and adoption assistance, having children would not be a consideration for some of our colleagues.”
Bernie Meighen didn’t anticipate that reading the company benefits bulletin would send him halfway across the globe to find his daughter in an orphanage in Nanjing, China, where she had been abandoned within days of her birth. With two boys in grade school, his wife working full-time, a big new suburban home, and a busy banking career, he was living the American dream. “We had just moved into a larger home, our family was complete—or so we thought,” says Bernie, 47. “I joked that the extra bedroom could be a perfect room for a little girl.”
Bernie and his wife Wendy, high school sweethearts who have known each other since they were classmates in kindergarten back in North Canton, Ohio, in the 1960s, figured they were long past having another baby. Their sons Jack and Zachary were almost teenagers. They were saving money for the boys to go to college, an opportunity Bernie and Wendy hadn’t had upon graduating high school. But for four more years the couple couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that something—or someone—was missing from their lives.
“And then I’m reading the company newsletter about Citizens’ great adoption benefit, more than $20,000 in adoption assistance,” says Bernie. “We had talked about the possibility of adoption, but this, I thought, could finally make it happen.”
Within days, Wendy and Bernie were researching adoption; they decided to adopt internationally. They looked at Russia, the Ukraine, then decided that China seemed to have the biggest need. They talked with other families who had adopted. They connected with a Colorado adoption agency that specialized in placing orphans from China.
“As we look back on our journey, it’s almost like there was a plan in place for us,” recalls Bernie, who credits his faith in God with bringing Abigail to their family.
Over the next year, Wendy completed all the required documents and made arrangements for all four of them to travel to China when a child to adopt became available. Wendy agreed to accept a special needs child under China’s waiting child program.
On Valentine’s Day 2007, Bernie was working from home during a snowstorm. He received an email message from the adoption agency, with attached photos of a 2-year-old girl whose left outer ear was malformed. He forwarded the message to Wendy, who was working as an executive assistant at the Crystal Clinic, a medical facility in Montrose.
“By the time she came home, she had shown the photos and medical history to three pediatric specialists who work at the hospital. They believed the exterior ear could be rebuilt,” says Bernie. “You go on hope . . . We were ready to get our daughter.”
Abigail Xin Ru (her name given in the orphanage meaning “like or of heart, mind”) Meighen was born on March 1, 2005, in Nanjing, China. She was 26 months old when she met her parents and brothers for the first time and boarded a plane with them for her forever home. “She fits. She’s bonded well,” says her proud dad. “It’s been a real pleasure to see Abigail blossom in two years.”
She rides a tricycle, swims, and likes to be around other little girls and boys from China whom the Meighen family has befriended through an adoption support group called Born in Our Hearts. The support group helps parents and children overcome the challenges of early formative years spent in an orphanage. The Meighens are waiting to have Abigail’s ear rebuilt until they are sure she’s ready for the surgery.
“Adoption is so often viewed as a blessing to the child, but Wendy and I know the real blessing is to the parents,” adds Bernie. “I thank my employer, Citizens, for being a part of our family’s blessing.”