A (childless) friend works at Amazon. She’s been working extra hard because one of her colleagues has been on maternity leave with a fourth child. The company pilloried in the New York Times for slave-driving provides six months of maternity leave, one month prior to birth and five months after. “The month before birth is supposed to be only in case of medical need,” my friend explained, “but the company coaches people to get a doctor’s note saying that it would be better for the baby so almost everyone takes this.” The 6-month benefit extends to fathers and to parents who adopt children (perhaps the month prior to birth has to be finessed in that case?).
I wondered if it would be possible to obtain a 30-year stream of cash from Amazon without ever coming into the office. Suppose that an Amazon employee adopted a 17.5-year-old foster child. Six months of paid vacation! How about the next 29.5 years? It is reportedly tough to adopt healthy infants, but I don’t think that there is any waiting list for 17.5-year-old children in foster care. So the Amazon employee does another adoption and gets another 6 months off! Lather, rinse, repeat.
What about the fact that it could take a few hours per week to take care of a “child” and therefore the dream lifestyle of consuming OxyContin while playing Xbox might not be fully realized? Teenagers are famous for wanting to be left alone by adults.
How about expenses associated with the “child,” such as food (teenagers eat a lot) and clothing? Will these eat into a $150,000-200,000/year Amazon programmer’s income? They should be offset by payments from the state foster care agency. In most states, collecting cash from the government for a foster child is not nearly as lucrative as collecting child support cash from a private defendant (see table in Real World Divorce). However, it can still be cashflow-positive and the government checks continue to arrive by agreement after adoption in 92 percent of cases (HHS). The employee now has at least a cashflow-neutral child and six months of paid time off from Amazon.
What about having to pay $73,600 per year to send Adoptee #17 to Harvard? Children of an intact family in the U.S. have no right to sue parents for support, such as college tuition, after age 18 (the story is different, depending on the state, for children of divorced or never-married parents; in Massachusetts, for example, the 18-year-old former adopted “child” could become a tuition plaintiff and the lower-income adoptive parent could use the 18-year-old to get child support cash for himself or herself until the “child” turned 23).
How are things at IBM, the traditional cradle-to-grave corner of our industry? Friends recently welcomed a second child. The father works at IBM and took his full 6-week paternity leave to relax at home, hike, etc. “I’m upset because they just changed the policy to give fathers 12 weeks.”