A Calgary mother and the Member of Parliament for Calgary Shepard are working together to improve the maternal leave allowances offered to parents who adopt.

“We have a petition right now that’s calling on the government to change how maternity parental benefits work,” said Tom Kmiec, Calgary Shephard MP. “Asking for equal treatment for adoptive parents with biological parents, birth parents.”

“What happens right now is if you’re mom and you’re dad and you are expecting a child and give birth, you’re actually eligible for all the different EI benefits. You get the full range of them. If you’re an adoptive parent, you only get parental benefits. You don’t get the maternal benefit.”

Biological mothers in Canada currently receive 15 weeks of maternity benefits in addition to 35 weeks of parental benefits. Adoptive parents are excluded from the maternity benefits.

Lindsey Salloway, a Calgary mother, initiated the petition following her and her husband’s experiences post-adoption.

“We were actually there in the hospital when William was born,” said Salloway. “We found out about a month before that we had been chosen to be his parents and we were very fortunate to have an amazing birth mom who invited us to be in the hospital.”

“He was about three hours old when we got to see him and then we brought him home two days later.”

Salloway says, in addition to the regular feedings and care of William, she and her husband had to anxiously await the passing of the revocation period, finalize the adoption, secure a birth certificate and legally change their son’s surname.

Salloway’s Employment Insurance benefits ended in August, 35 weeks after William’s December birth, but well before she or her son were ready for her to return to work.

“Not only was I not ready emotionally to leave, but it’s really hard to find childcare for under one (year old) so that was a huge hurdle we would have to get over as well.”

Her employer permitted her to extend her leave, unpaid, to spend additional time with William. “It was a tough four months financially, of course worth it entirely, but a lot of people their companies don’t allow it so you do have to go back at that nine-month mark.”

Salloway believes adoptive and biological parents should receive equal benefits and questions the current disparity.

“The explanation that I received was that the 15 weeks was provided to biological mothers for the physical recovery of giving birth and then for the potential emotional inability to return to work,” said Salloway. “The time shouldn’t really be about the physical and emotional recovery for the parent, it should be about the physical and emotional needs of the child.”

Kmiec says there are approximately 2,000 adoptions by Canadians each year with the majority of them involving children from abroad and he agrees with Salloway’s belief that these parents should receive full leave and benefits.

“For those parents that do choose to adopt a little boy or a little girl into their lives and give them all the love that they need, it’s a big deal to them. 15 weeks is a lot of extra time that you could be spending with your child making sure that they’re adapting to their new situation.”

Kmiec and Salloway are circulating a petition that he plans to table in the house in Parliament in September.

“The petition needs a lot more signatures,” said Kmiec, a father of three with a fourth on the way. “During Stampede time, we’re going to have these little cards that we’re handing out to encourage people to go and sign the petition.”

“I think that this is an issue that most people will recognize, just on the face of it, as an issue of equity and fairness for parents regardless of if they’ve given birth to a child or adopting one.”

To add your name to the petition, visit Petition to the Government of Canada – E-1563 Adoption.

With files from CTV's Bill Macfarlane