my company wants me to Photoshop our customers, managers uses our meetings to vent, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. My company wants me to Photoshop our customers

I am in my early 30’s and have floated from job to job my whole life. I finally have a career that I love, pays well, and offers room to grow. Part of my job consists of editing photos in Photoshop, and my boss has even paid for online classes for me. My company pays for an ad in an online magazine and each month we take photos of my boss’s boss with different customers of ours. My boss’s boss has given his full permission to make him “look great” by editing the photos however we see fit.

But my boss also makes me edit the customers in these photos, who have not given permission for this. The edits are mainly removing wrinkles from their face, making their teeth whiter, thinning out their face and neck, fixing their hair, etc. I am good at what I do and make the edits with the subjects still looking natural but I have some moral discomfort with them not knowing they are going to be edited. I have brought this up to my boss before and she is of the mindset that since we pay for the photographer and the ad, we can do whatever we want. I have suggested taking a release form with us for the subjects to sign giving us permission but she brushed it off, saying that’s not necessary and that if anything ever comes up, she will take full responsibility and blame. But still … I am the one editing the photos. I like my boss and job very much and don’t want to cause problems. Is this wrong?

Yeah, it’s not great. It’s one thing to fix a flyaway hair, correct lighting imbalances, or fix red-eye, but removing people’s wrinkles or changing the size of their face or neck is problematic. Some people might appreciate it, but others will not — and to the latter group, it’s going to come across strangely (and insultingly) that your company decided they’d be more pleasing if they were slimmed down or younger.

Can you just … not do those things? If your boss questions it, can you plausibly say there’s no way to do what she’s asking without it looking unnatural to the person? If you can’t, you can’t, but I’d try just pulling way back on the editing you do of customers and see what happens.

2. My manager spends our meetings venting about her job

I started a new job about a year ago, transitioning from a contractor into a full-time employee. My manager was my champion throughout this process and we have a great working relationship. I came aboard during a massive transition in the department and the team was dealing with high work volumes and stress from all sides. I learned to lay low and listen as my coworkers vented about the situation.

Unfortunately, these stress rants have bled into my 1-1s with my manager, with her spending a considerable amount of time de-stressing about her job or explaining in detail situations that don’t relate to my current tasks. These meetings are an hour long every two weeks and they aren’t really productive. I don’t receive any feedback except “you’re doing great” or “I’d let you know if you’re doing something wrong” but since she also expresses frustration with my coworkers in some of our meetings, I’ve considered she might be doing the same in their 1-1s.

At this point in my career, I would really like some critical feedback on how I am doing, especially since I’m new to corporate life (I previously worked at small businesses). How do I stop my manager from using our 1-1 meetings from being her personal stress valve and move towards receiving useful and critical feedback?

You’re right that it’s the wrong place for her to be doing that. I’d try being more assertive about how the time in those meetings gets used. For example, you can send her an agenda ahead of time with the topics you want to update her on or get input on (or if that would be weird in your culture, do it out loud at the start of the meeting — “I’m hoping we can talk about X, Y, and Z today”). A lot of people sit back and let their boss drive their 1:1s, but it can be really helpful to take more control of them yourself — think ahead of time about how it would be most useful to spend the time and then be clear at the start of the meeting about what you’re hoping to cover. (That assumes your boss is cool with that approach, of course, but lots of managers will be glad to have you be the one thinking through how to best use the time — and they of course can redirect things if they need to.)

Also, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback that’s more specific than “you’re doing great.” Sometimes you can get more useful input by asking, “If I wanted to focus on improving in one area, where would you recommend I focus?” or by asking to debrief specific projects — like “do you have thoughts on what we could have done differently on X to have gotten better results?” or “I’m not sure that meeting went as well as it could have — what was your take?” You can also talk about what your career goals are and ask for her advice on what you can do to position yourself to move in that direction in the future. (More here and here.)

3. Will I look like a job hopper?

In 2018, I left the company I had worked at for 12 years (during which I was promoted twice) to relocate out of state with my husband. Unfortunately, less than a year later, we returned to our home state due to family health issues back home. I took a similar job in the same field with a different company (there were no openings at my previous employer). A year later, my “dream job” opened at my previous employer and I happily took the offer. (So two jobs — one lasting nine months and one lasting one year). While I did know there was new leadership in place, I didn’t recognize that the culture at my old company had significantly changed. The new leadership is fostering a toxic work environment and restructuring of teams (since I was hired) has made my job duties significantly different than I had expected.

I really want to look for something else but I’m worried about a third change in three years (I’ve been in my current position about one year now). Do I need to stick it out? If so, how much longer? If I can start my search now, do you have any suggestions for how I address this on my resume and/or during an interview?

Well … it depends on how unhappy you are. It would be helpful to stay another year, but if you’re miserable, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world to start looking now. Your most recent job history is 12 years, nine months (because you moved), one year, and one year. The last three aren’t great, but one is explained by a move and you can cite leadership changes to explain the current switch (which won’t sound like BS, since you’d previously worked at the same place — apparently happily — for 12 years). That said, you’re going to want to stay at the next job for a solid length of time (ideally not less than three years) as a counter-weight to that pattern, so make sure you really do due diligence on the next job before accepting it.

4. Company said they’d hire me … then nothing

I have been dealing with a recruitment company for the last four weeks They told me the company loved my resume and I did not need to do a formal interview. It has been four weeks — no contract. I called the firm and asked about my contract and get crazy answers — the company is redlining the contract, oh the contract is signed, oh they are restructuring the groups, and it ends with oh you should get something the end of the week, but the end of the week comes and than nothing. I am still interviewing elsewhere. I have been scammed, have I not?

Probably not scammed (unless you gave them money for some reason), but certainly strung along. Sometimes when that happens it’s because things are just taking far longer than anticipated on their side (hold-ups from decision-makers, bureaucracy, higher priorities, or other moving pieces). Sometimes it’s because they aren’t as sure about you as they originally indicated (maybe another strong candidate emerged). Sometimes there’s something going on they don’t want to share outside the company (like potential cuts). In your case, the fact that they said they wanted to hire you without a real interview isn’t great — it says the decision might have been hasty and now that it’s time to make it real, there’s hesitation somewhere. (Which would make sense! They should interview you, and you should have a chance to interview them too.)

The best thing you can do is to put it out of your mind and assume it’s not happening unless  an actual contract or start date appears.

5. Planning for parental leave with the uncertainty of foster parenting

My spouse (he/him) and I (she/her) are beginning the process of becoming foster parents. We haven’t had a home study yet or anything — but we could be within six months of being eligible for placements if everything works out. I have done a bit of diving into my work’s (academia!) parental leave policies and they require 90 days’ notice – something that doesn’t seem like it exactly aligns with foster placements. I mean, we could get a placement right after we’re licensed, but we may need to wait months. I’m not worried about my team – we’re a pretty understanding bunch — but my organization as a whole is big and I don’t want to mess anything up. My spouse is in a bit more of a precarious employment position than I am, which can also complicate things (he doesn’t get PTO).

I’m always not sure how much time we’ll want to take. It looks like some foster parents take a week of vacation and delay parental leave for a few months. This is all new to me and not as clear cut as the normal path to parenthood seems to be.

When would we tell our employers? How does one request parental leave when we don’t exactly know when it will happen or for how long? Are there other insights you and the readers might have of balancing work and foster parenting?

Ideally you’d figure out what you’ll want to ask for, since otherwise it’s not really actionable for your manager — they won’t know if they need to plan for you being out for a week (not a big deal) or a few months (a bigger deal that will take a lot more planning). So I’d try to figure that out first — possibly by talking to other foster parents about what they’ve done. If it’s impossible to know until closer to the time (like if it will depend on the specific needs of the child), I’d explain that to your boss and ask about the best way to proceed.

But we’ll get better input from readers who have navigated this themselves. Readers who have fostered kids, how did you handle advance planning for leave?

{ 264 comments… read them below }

  1. nnn*

    One thing I wonder in #1 is whether there’s some kind of industry standard about how much photos are touched up in these kinds of ads. It would be useful both in communicating with your boss and in communicating to any customers who might comment to be able to point to something like “Whitening teeth is a standard touch-up for this type of ad, but changing people’s body shape is excessive.”

    Just in my capacity as a person who might be photographed, I think the amount of editing done to the customer needs to be based on the amount of editing done to Boss’s Boss. Personally, I’d find it undignified and very close to humiliating to appear in a photo unretouched if the other person in the photo has had their teeth whitened and wrinkles removed.

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      I don’t know about an industry standard, but if the subject looks at the photo and thinks “That’s weird” then it’s gone too far.

      I’ve slightly whitened teeth or smoothed out what I knew to be a temporary blemish. Little things. But changing body shape – no way.

      1. Quill*

        Also: there is just no way that changes to the shape of a person will go unnoticed in these materials. They often don’t go unnoticed on the covers of magazines, which are edited by people with years of experience (usually) who specialize in this type of thing.

        If something is an artifact of photography – bad lighting, flyaway hairs, red eyes, weird shadows that look like stains – feel free to fix it. When it comes to concealing people’s wrinkles or body shape, the failure mode of clever retouching is uncanny valley.

        1. Semi-professional lightroom user*

          That is your opinion. Others’ opinions may differ. We always soften skin, make eyes and teeth whiter, enhance the vibrancy of irises and lips, for example. I think most people involved in image editing do this. D&O Photo has an excellent landing page image of this kind of editing done exceptionally well.

          There are sometimes exceptions, like if you are taking a monochrome photo of a grizzled old lobsterman in Maine, where you want to accentuate the wrinkles. That is probably not what the letter writer wants to acoomplish.

          1. Zephy*

            We always soften skin, make eyes and teeth whiter, enhance the vibrancy of irises and lips

            Okay, but that’s basically applying makeup in post, not altering someone’s body shape.

          2. HoHumDrum*

            Do you ask people first? Or is it assumed that that is part of the process?
            I ask because I personally find the idea that the way I look naturally needs to be retouched kind of offensive. I’m ok with the color of my teeth and the texture of my skin, in my opinion I look better just as I am, so I would be annoyed if someone else took it upon themselves to “perfect” me by making me more closely adhere to *their* idea of what is attractive.

            1. 2020storm*

              Allison’s answer was likely appropriate, but I so agree. I want Jameela Jamil’s response to this question.

            2. Gadfly*

              I would throw a fit–especially because as a fat nearing 40 woman I know what they are inclined to “fix”.

              Add in racial insensitivity and it can get REALLY nasty.

              I wouldn’t do this if I were OP’s boss.

              If I were OP, at a minimum I would want all requested changes to be in writing/email and have the boss get proofs to check/sign off on.

            3. nora*

              I choose not to wear makeup for a reason, and last year during team headshots/group photos had very noticeable makeup applied to my face. I recognize this might be the industry standard, but it made me very uncomfortable. I don’t use the headshot.

      1. Anonymouse*

        If I appeared in a company’s marketing materials without first signing a release, I would definitely be writing a nastygram!

        1. Environmental Compliance*


          A customer that’s appearing in marketing materials should have signed a release. What’s the language in the release? Does it mention anything about touch ups (and perhaps put a box around what touch ups were agreed upon)?

        2. Littorally*


          OP, your clients should be signing a release anyway! If they aren’t, you’ve got bigger problems than moral questions about how much retouching to do.

        3. DataSci*

          Yeah. This is either a non-issue or a much bigger issue than where to draw the line between tooth-whitening and body shape.

          Either the customers signed a release, in which case the level of Photoshopping they may be subject to should be specified in the release, or they didn’t, in which case they should not be used in marketing materials in any way.

          1. Semi-professional lightroom user*

            Exactly. Y’all need to be getting a release to use images in marketing, full stop. That’s the issue. Photoshopping out blemishes and such is routine.

        4. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah, some people have damn good reasons (even safety ones) for not wanting their photos splashed around.

        5. Hey Nonnie*

          And assuming the photographer is freelance and not a direct employee of the company, the photographer probably got a signed model release to cover themselves. OP might be able to use that as leverage with boss: if the photographer does it, why don’t we?

          And yes, you definitely need a model release for marketing materials. Without one, any customer could sue over their right to privacy/publicity. They could claim that they were never paid for their time modeling or for the right to use their likeness to endorse your product/service.

      2. Sacred Ground*

        If I am appearing in anyone’s marketing materials, I want to be PAID.

        Or at least asked.

        “I paid for a photographer therefore I can do whatever I want with your likeness including commercial use” isn’t actually a thing. I’m no lawyer but I’m pretty sure about this.

        And never trust a boss who says they’ll take full responsibility for something illegal. Their “full responsibility” won’t stop a plaintiff from naming you as a defendant.

    2. MK*

      Frankly, I am unlikely to spent enough time looking at promotional photos to notice, and I would probably attribute any weirdness on the lighting or something. I realize this doesn’t help with the OP’s moral dilemma, but I doubt their clients are paying that much attention, if at all, to those ads.

    3. Quoth the Raven*

      Depending on the extent of the edition I might personally be upset; I don’t like having my photos edited at all (I don’t even use filters or anything on Instagram). I mean, I can get behind minor touch ups like covering a pimple, fixing fly away hair, or general adjustments of balance so the photo looks uniform, but not with being thinned out, having the colour of any part of my body, teeth included, changed, or being in any way made to look unlike myself, imperfections and all.

      I have no problem if someone decides that’s what they want, but it’s not my kinda thing no matter how much editing other people in the photo have, and I’d be especially upset if they did anything significant without letting me know first.

      1. Project Manager*

        Yep. My husband and I both have freckles and moles, and naturally, our kids do too. Every single photographer apparently thinks our freckles and moles are horribly disfiguring and photoshops them out without any discussion. My older son has one particularly dark mole (it’s slightly raised so counts as a mole, but it’s not very large) near one of his eyes – what they used to call a “beauty mark” – and no photographer can let it go without at least lightening it. I’ve actually started writing, “Please do not photoshop out his freckles – they are part of his face :)” in the special instructions on the school photo forms.

        Maybe we’re the weird ones and everyone else thinks we’re hideous because of our freckles and moles? Well, even if so, they are still part of our faces!

        1. Person from the Resume*

          Wow! Freckles are a normal part of skin appearance for many people. Who decided freckles were blemishes to be removed. Is our skin only supposed to be a uniform skin color.? That’s unnatural.

          1. Beth*

            Speaking as a redhead with freckles: the negative attitude about freckles goes back centuries. In recent decades, it’s gotten better (at least in the US), but when I was growing up (born in 1960), my freckles were definitely derided as ugly. The only acceptable complexion in that era was an even tan. Since I couldn’t tan, I stayed out of the sun, ending up with very pale skin except where I’m freckled.

            Of course, my tanned agemates are now dealing with skin cancer, and I look about 15 years younger than most of them.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              You’re telling my story, Beth, we’re of the same era, hair color, and freckle ownership. Most of my family openly joked about my freckles, even sneered at them. Freckles weren’t ladylike or some nonsense. Can’t remember getting teased very much for them at school, but most of my school photos had the freckles airbrushed out. My mother tsked-tsked when they didn’t and apologized for the pics when she sent them out. Thanks, Mom.

              Today I don’t have any deep wrinkles, and my freckles are considered youthful.

            2. AnotherAlison*

              The trick is staying out of the sun, though. My redheaded sons won’t stay out of the sun or wear sunscreen consistently and I worry about the future of their skin. (They’re 23 and 16. I kept them protected back when it was in my control.) My oldest has more eye crinkle than I did at his age (I’m a fair-skinned blonde, no freckles). I had a basal cell on my forehead in my late 30s, and that type of skin cancer runs in my family. I wasn’t even someone who spent much time in the sun as a kid. I was indoorsy, wore suncreen, and wear hats as an adult.

              1. KoiFeeder*

                I wasn’t good at applying sunscreen or avoiding the sun until I got sun poisoning. Sometimes lessons just have to be learned the hard way.

                (although hopefully they don’t get either a bad burn or skin cancer)

        2. Mel_05*

          When people do skin smoothing techniques, freckles tend to be erased in the process. They probably have to take extra time to leave them in, but it’s definitely worth it, because freckles are lovely and definitely part of someone’s face!

        3. GothicBee*

          This is how I feel exactly! My moles are just part of me. It would be really weird for them to not be in a picture; I mean, they’re not temporary, and some of them I’ve had since I was born. I can understand acne, flyaway hairs, and other (presumably) temporary things, but I think scars, moles, freckles, etc. should be kept unless the subject of the photo specifically asks them to be edited out. Ditto for body shape/fat. I think it’s bizarre to be removing things that are literally just part of a person’s appearance.

          1. Kiki*

            Yeah, I have a prominent mole on my face, very much the sort of “beauty mark” that people used to add artificially because it was fashionable. I’ve had it as long as I can remember, and would feel extremely weird if someone edited it out, the way someone else might feel if, say, their eyebrows were re-shaped in a photo without their permission, or the shape of their ears was changed.

        4. KoiFeeder*

          Yeah, this happened with my school photos too. It also happened to my brother, but when my mom pushed back they stopped wholly removing his freckles. With me, the argument was that they “already had to” alter my pictures, so they might as well remove the freckles while they were there, and my parents were being ungrateful because they weren’t the ones being charged for all the editing that “had to” be done on my photos.

          Honestly, I suspect that combined with the faceblindness is why I can’t stand having my photos taken. It’s always a stranger in the image.

        5. Brisvegan*

          The irony is that now some people are getting cosmetic tattoos to add freckles! I recently watched a piece on how it has to be done to look natural.

          You were just a trendsetter and didn’t know it.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        I was born when my dad was 40, and when photo retouching showed up in conversation he still griped about the college yearbook that “fixed” his chipped tooth. That would be the tooth that got chipped during a school sports event.

    4. Mr McGregor's Gardener*

      This reminded me of a rather extreme example of misjudging the amount of photoshop you can use. In the 90s, Ford took a photo of some of their workers in the UK, and particularly wanted to showcase their diversity, so made a point of including numerous non-white employees. It was used in some of their UK promotions, so far, so good. Then they wanted to run a similar campaign in Poland, but decided they couldn’t be bothered to take a photo of the Polish workers, and just reused the UK photo. But the racial demographic in Poland is different to the one in the UK. Can you see where this is going?

      So they just photoshopped white faces onto the non-white workers bodies, to make an all-white lineup. And then the photo was somehow used back in the UK. One woman was reported to be shocked to see that she’d aged 20 years, put in 10 pounds and turned white! The plant where the photo had been taken lost a load of money after the workers walked out in disgust, and they had to pay compensation to the photoshopped workers.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        hen they wanted to run a similar campaign in Poland, but decided they couldn’t be bothered to take a photo of the Polish workers, and just reused the UK photo.

        I’d be offended even before the whitewashing; that’s the stereotype that all people of a given nationality or heritage or interchangeable. Whitewashing afterwards just doubles down on my disgust.

    5. Malarkey01*

      Something is a little off here- if these photos are being used in marketing ads, the bigger issue is not photoshop but how did customers consent to having their image used in paid marketing promotions. You can’t run ads with peoples images (unless they are at large public events without any expectation of privacy) promoting a product without them consenting to their use. If they did consent to use, part of that says the company owns this image and can edit away. How is boss obtaining consent for the ads if not from a waiver?

      1. Beth*

        YES. This is a serious question — and it might give the LW some scope for getting that waiver implemented.

    6. ursula*

      As someone who struggled with disordered eating for a decade and as a currently plus-sized person whose body positivity was hard won, I would not be impressed (and depending on the day, could even hit a bad mental health spiral) if someone “kindly” edited my face and neck slimmer without asking.

    7. Smithy*

      I was also wondering if there might be some kind of standard text/form the OP can provide to customers in advance of asking them to participate in photos for promotional activities. Presumably customers are made aware that when they’re being photographed with the boss’s boss that one of the photos may be used in promotional material?

      Surely there has to be a straight-forward way to include mention “photo may appear in ad on X publication, in advance of publication the image may receive standard photoshop to enhance the image?” Just something where if someone has an issue, they can flag ahead of time. I also think that professionally, playing around with standardizing this language will only help you in your career. You likely do not want to be having specific conversations with individuals about how they feel about teeth whitening or wrinkle removing, and so finding a way to note that general photoshop will likely happen in case there are concerns to address now will be helpful.

      1. DataSci*

        They need to spell out “standard” photoshop. People’s expectations will vary wildly. They need to say “this includes alterations to people’s appearances as well as general lighting/color adjustments”, or some people will expect they’re just removing shadows. I’d never expect “standard photoshop” to mean “We’ll make you look 20 pounds lighter.”

        1. Smithy*

          I agree – and admit that my usage of the word standard is based entirely on not knowing this industry – but what about a term like “standard cosmetic photoshop”? There simply has to be a way to acknowledge wrinkle correction, teeth whitening and slimming without calling it out directly. Precisely because one person’s “my neck would only look like that if I lost 20 pounds” is another’s “show me from my good angle.”

          I do work in nonprofits, and have seen our photo release forms for adults and children/guardians, and quite honestly the benefit of the document is that for those who are broadly comfortable and familiar, they sign. For those where the language regarding use for fundraising materials is uncomfortable – it’s a place to either open a conversation or acknowledge discomfort and stop. If someone reads a line that says that “standard cosmetic photoshop will happen” and has concerns, it can be discussed at that time.

    8. Gadfly*

      There was not when when I worked with newspaper ads a few years back–it was whatever the client decided to do.

  2. MW*

    Adoptive parent here replying to #5. It might be worth confirming with HR that foster parents are eligible for parental leave. Where I work (government organization in Canada) it doesn’t, and even convincing HR that adoptive leave was a thing was surprisingly mind boggling! At my organization I didn’t qualify for any maternal benefits that biological parents received, which still chokes me up to this day as we went through recurrent pregnancy loss (had I died in labour I would have been eligible though!). All of that to say, you’re not alone in your frustrations with HR being behind the times with non-traditional family situations. It sucks.

    All that said: Having a supportive crew and boss goes a long way, so I’m glad you have that. The other thing that is helpful is having a transition plan or ideas for coverage – make it easy for them to say yes. Think about how much time you’ll think you’ll need, whether you’re hoping for flexible or reduced hours, etc. and build that into your ask.

    Good luck!

    1. fhqwhgads*

      If #5 is in the US, my understanding is this needn’t be a question for HR. A foster placement is a valid reason for FMLA. That’s not paid leave unless the employer deems it so, but it is the same leave guaranteed for giving birth or adoption. It specifically lists all three.

        1. Blackcat*

          Yes, but several foster parent friends of mine have said that because they can’t give the required notice for birth or adoption of a new child, FMLA has been denied.
          Unfortunately, it’s just something they roll with. For my friends who are very committed to being foster parents, one is now a stay at home dad.

          1. Another JD*

            FMLA notice for foster placement is 30 days if you have it, and if not, then you give notification as soon as practicable, which is the same day or next business day. If they gave notice within this time and FMLA is being denied, they should consult with an employment attorney.

          2. Observer*

            I don’t think that this is legal. The law allows companies to require notice IF POSSIBLE.

            Links to follow.

            1. Observer*


              Leave that is Foreseeable In general, the employee must give the employer at least 30 days advance notice of the need to take FMLA leave when he or she knows about the need for the leave in advance and it is possible and practical to do so. For example, if the employee is scheduled for surgery in two months, the need for leave is foreseeable and at least 30 days advance notice is required. If 30 days advance notice is not possible because the situation has changed or the employee does not know exactly when leave will be required, the employee must provide notice of the need for leave as soon as possible and practical.


              Generally, employees must give 30-days’ advance notice of the need for FMLA leave. If it is not possible to give 30-days’ notice, an employee must notify the employer as soon as possible and, generally, follow the employer’s usual procedures.

            2. Hearty Heart Heart*

              Yes, and FMLA is not just for having babies, taking kiddo placements – it’s also for your own or your family member’s medical events. I could not give 30 days notice of my emergency heart surgery, but still got my FMLA coverage.

              1. Observer*

                Tsk, Tsk. How careless of you to need emergency surgery. You should always plan your emergencies to not inconvenience your employer! And you should always email IT when your email goes down, too.


            3. SpaceySteph*

              I wonder if you don’t inform your employer even of intent to adopt even though you don’t have an exact date, if that can be considered not giving notice when notice is possible?

          3. CowWhisperer*

            Denying foster parents because they can’t give required notice sounds like a bad choice. Especially since biological parents can’t always give 30 days notice of the arrival of their kid; I had 28 hours notice that my son was being delivered 14 weeks early. If anyone had told me that I’d forfeit FMLA because I didn’t give 30 days notice, I’d have literally lost it – and likely never returned to the job.

            1. Krabby*

              Unfortunately because foster parenting is sometimes seen as “a choice,” instead of a natural progression in people’s lives, a lot of employers would say good riddance if you quit. You know, because you’re choosing to prioritize yourself and others over work (excuse me while I roll my eyes forever).

              It’s really gross, but my sister in law saw it when she was a surrogate. Her company didn’t want to recognize her maternity leave (we’re also in Canada and leave is split into maternity for recovering from birth and parental for caring for the child). All of a sudden her managers didn’t think she was as serious about her job as she had been before and her shifts started to dry up… It’s really gross the way some employers look at non-traditional families.

              1. Blackcat*

                Yeah. Just because it’s illegal doesn’t mean some people won’t still do it.

                Fostering can mean really large disruptions to work and a lot of employers just won’t take kindly to that. In the cases of my friends, it makes sense to have a stay at home parent.

              2. Fosterino*

                Worse yet, fostering is seen as a job because the state pays you a tiny sum to take care of traumatized children.

      1. Danielle*

        Agreed, FMLA can be used. My husband and I have fostered two teen sisters for more than a year (and are on track to becoming their legal guardians next month.) Leave is really just the beginning. Fostering involves a lot of required visits from the social worker, therapist, court appointed social advocate, visits with birth parents and various other county workers. Because we all have different schedules, you will likely have to rearrange your work schedule at least a few times a month to accommodate these appointments. If you have a boss and HR that is kind and understanding and allows for flexibility, that will truly go a long way because it can be overwhelming until you get used to the new routine.

        1. Paperwhite*

          By the way, this is really wonderful of you. By changing these girls’ lives you are changing the world.

        2. LW #3 (foster parent)*

          Thanks – this is what we’ve read as well! I hope things go smoothly for you and your teens.

      2. Attack Cat*

        It sounds like the employer offers paid parental leave at their discretion, and that’s what the notice requirement applies to. While familial status is a protected class, I don’t know how that would interact with telling everyone they need to give notice, even through requiring it in this case feels unfair. You could still do FMLA, but the income hit is rough.

    2. Green great dragon*

      If you were up for it, since you’ve got a few months lead time it could be worth looking at similar orgs’ policies and raising with HR – as a big org it would be reasonable for them to develop a policy for you and any future cases. I know we have foster care leave which is different to leave for having or adopting a child.

      1. LW #3 (foster parent)*

        There *may* be a policy, I just don’t know what it is yet. We have a gazillion policies and I’ve only done surface-level searching.

    3. Sam*

      Echoing this as a Canadian in a foster & adoptive family. Parental leave (paid by government, topped up by employer) was only provided for adoptions, not fostering situations. We’ve had dozens of foster kids, and taking parental leave of any substantial amount would have meant being out of the office more than in. It sounds like you should be able to access unpaid leave at the very least.

      We typically took 1-2 days off depending on the child’s circumstances. You’ll want a day to register them for school or daycare, buy any items they need that they didn’t bring with them (clothes, toiletries) and so on – but then it benefits everyone in the long run to get into standard daily routines ASAP. This holds true for anyone fostering children old enough to attend day care or school – if you’re fostering newborns, that’s a very different experience (and all the newborn foster families I know have a full-time parent).

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I volunteered with a mentoring program for foster kids a while back, and I wonder if this varies by the way the local agencies handle foster care? In the county I was volunteering in (in the US), there were foster families who did short-term placements, which varied from a few hours to several years but were typically weeks or months. And then there were the families who were long-term placements, usually foster-to-adopt or at least open to having the child with them until they were 18. These families at least sometimes had a little more notice, and though sometimes the kids returned to their birth families in the end, the placement was intended to last until that happened or until the birth parents lost parental rights and the foster parents became permanent guardians.

        I can imagine the way you might handle time off of work might be different depending on what kind of placement it is, based on what kind of foster situation you’re looking at.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I was wondering that too. If you’re getting semi-permanent fosters, then taking a chunk of time off is practical. But if you’re doing a lot of short-term fosters, how feasible is it to take repeated leaves, sometimes more than one a year?

          1. LW #3 (foster parent)*

            These are all really interesting points – we’re looking at longer-term fostering in our particular case, so we’d want to see what we could do in terms of adjustment. If it was a shorter-term placement, we may do things a bit differently, and the frequency is also a question I’d have to work out.

      2. KimW*

        Along this same line, I fostered my son for one year until the adoption (10 years ago now). I didn’t take any FMLA and I have always regretted it. I suggest spreading out your leave. We adopted a special needs six year old and the first couple years were incredibly stressful and draining. You’re going to need a lot of time that’s a day here and a few hours there. Good luck and best wishes!

        1. LW #3 (foster parent)*

          Thanks for sharing your experience! This seems in line with other things I’ve read as well, and I’m game to spread out the leave if it’s best for the whole family.

    4. Alexis Rose*

      Did you qualify for parental leave though? I also work for a government org in Canada (the feds) and I just looked it up and adopting a child qualifies for the same parental benefit (not maternal, which is intended as a medical leave) as a person who had a biological child or who’s common law partner/spouse had a child. There is a whole section on adopting children. There is also leave with out pay for caregiver leave, which says that four weeks notice should be given unless it is totally unreasonable due to unforeseen circumstances as well as “leave without pay for the care of family” (family is specifically defined as a person who stands in place of a family member, related by blood or not, so I would think a foster child would work in that case).

      Under all these provisions, its “leave without pay” but you collect EI and in some cases receive a top-up from your employer. I think this is a common misconception in Canada that your employer just keeps paying you for the whole time you are off after having a child, and thats not completely true. you are eligible to collect unemployment insurance and then some employers have top ups as part of the benefits package.

      1. Observer*

        FMLA in the US explicitly covers foster care. What the company’s policies for PAID leave are a different question.

      2. Rachel in NYC*

        In New York, state paid family leave would cover a foster child with 30 days notice (when practical). It’s not a full pay but it’s something at least.

        [NY Paid Family Leave provides eligible employees job-protected, paid time off to: (1) Bond with a newly born, adopted or fostered child, (2) Care for a family member with a serious health condition, or (3) Assist loved ones when a spouse, domestic partner, child or parent is deployed abroad on active military service.]

      3. Jay*

        In PA, the law says that all policies applying to biological children also apply to the adoption process starting with placement. I had to fight with my employer about that when our daughter came to us because they said she wouldn’t be covered by my insurance until the next open enrollment period – 11 months after her birth. I finally said “I could have my attorney write a letter if that would help” and they backed off. Worth checking state law – and that may not apply if it’s not explicitly a pre-adoptive placement.

        I talked with my department chair when we started the adoption process because I knew I’d be taking leave with minimal to no notice. As it turned out, she was born on Saturday and I was working the weekend – one of my partners covered the weekend and I was gone for the next 8 weeks on FMLA. No maternity leave and thus no pay because mat leave was paid as disability and that only covers you if you give birth….so aargh, but my job and benefits were saved, anyway.

      4. Galahad*

        I can confirm this. I worked in private industry and my employer paid out the standard sick leave benefits for approx 6 weeks around the date of the birth, longer if c-section, until a doctor’s note said I was somewhat functional physically…. and this benefit would have been the same for miscarriage or stillbirth, …or a broken shoulder. The only other benefit is EI.

        Per the comment above, EI can kick in after 2 weeks of involuntary unpaid leave (e.g. even including due to disability or caregiving ) from your work.

        My friends that foster kids treat it like a job for one of the parents. They either ramp up their levels for more advanced care / short term care for increased $$ support, or only have a PT job in addition to fostering. They choose this lower paid work because of the love for the kids.

        They take vacation or sick time for a few days during the transition(s), or work it around a PT schedule. Only one did a longer-term placement, but her other job is as a licensed at-home daycare/ early education, and she was the sole owner / practioner.

    5. Alex*

      I have nothing to add, advice-wise, but I am so sorry for your losses, and the way that the current workplace setup highlights them to you. I hope the road gets easier for you.

    6. jfgulia*

      We adopted our daughter from foster care, so her initial placement was as a foster child (in the US). I echo Danielle that you will need to think about flexibility beyond just the initial leave as the number of appointments – especially in the first few months as you get them set up – can be staggering. Also, you might consider the age of the child. Our daughter was 13 when she was placed with us and it was during the school year, so I took a long weekend when she moved in, and then both my husband and I did slightly reduced schedules (I was at 25-30 hrs/wk) for the first month or so so that one of us was always home when she was home. And then we took longer chunks of leave in the summer. But, depending on the age of the child and their specific set of needs, that may or may not help.

      Also, fostering a child usually comes with some sort of state/county financial assistance that is factored based on the child, not on your current financial situation. I’ve always found this a little awkward to talk about because it’s weird to be paid to be a parent, but, the goal of that assistance is to make parenting the child less of a financial hardship. Because FMLA definitely applies for foster placement in the US and if your org digs in their heels on paid parental leave, you may want to factor in how that income could offset unpaid leave, at least in the short term.

      1. LW #3 (foster parent)*

        This is really helpful, thanks! We’re looking at possibly school aged-kids, but younger than 10. I think having a kind of plan for reduced hours/responsibilities at work is something we could definitely do as we get settled. I’m super fortunate to have a very understanding group I work with, and I bet they’d be on board.

        I hadn’t thought of the financial assistance as a way to offset any unpaid leave that needs to happen, which is useful for my spouse’s situation. Thanks!!

        1. FirstDayBackHurts*

          Foster to Adopt parent here. We currently have a 15-month-old foster daughter in our home, whom we are petitioning to adopt. We took her in during the first week of work-from-home due to Covid (April of this year where I am located). My husband and I both work in higher education, but we were also both brand new in our respective roles (6 months for me, 2 weeks for my husband). We took no leave of any sort at the beginning because we were so new in our jobs, we are working from home, and we had only a few days worth of warning that we were getting her. She came to a lot of zoom meetings at the beginning and no one minded, so it really was okay for us to not have leave. That may be different for you based on the child that you get. Most colleges and universities do include some form of paid parental leave, as well as FMLA as others have noted, for adoptive parents and many include it for fostering. We would have qualified if we had asked for it. Keep in mind, you likely have a year to take that leave, too, so you might consider saving it for summer or for a time when schools or daycares are likely to be closed. We plan to take our leave after our adoption is finalized in early 2021. Regardless of what you decide about parental leave, you will 100% need to talk about flexibility and SOON. We had two visits with her biological parents each week (ours were by zoom, but most are in person and require driving somewhere) plus a monthly visit with her case worker, doctor appointments, and other required meetings and on-going training. I had to shift my work schedule, and I do a ton of work after she is in bed at night. It is not ideal, but, without daycare options, it is the best we could do. It helped to have those conversations with my boss early in the process, so he wasn’t blindsided by my sudden inability to make 8am meetings. It would also help if you could identify family or friends who would be willing to help drive the child to visits once a week or something because it really is a lot of added responsibility. Good luck! And congrats! Fostering has been the best experience for us. We hope it is for you, too, and for the lucky little kids who will be loved by you!

          1. LW #5 (foster parent)*

            Thanks! This helps a lot! My husband and I are both new-ish in our jobs, so your experience helps.

    7. Emmie*

      It may not be HR making this decision in your company. Decisions about parental leave benefit extensions (outside of FMLA) are often business decisions made at the C-Suite. Cost / benefit to the organization and employee are their considerations. HR leaders have a role presenting a business case to the leaders about additional benefits, but the choice to offer them are often not made by HR exclusively. Informing HR and your executive leaders about your concerns is really important. Significant employee feedback or turnover because of a policy or lack of a particular benefit pushes the highest leaders to make different decisions. And, for what it’s worth, OP deserves parental leave for foster kids.

    8. FirstTimeCommenter*

      In our case, our foster daughter was placed with us with about 45 minutes’ notice. A few observations:

      So, so, so many daytime appointments where you don’t have much flexibility. Things like seeing a doctor and the dentist within 72 hours, visits to the school to be on the approved pick-up list, dropping off forms ‘during business hours only’…not to mention scheduling clothes shopping for when the department’s one person with a credit card can attend, having parental visitation rescheduled over and over again because of lack of transportation, jail or another hardship.

      My company was surprisingly snobby – the same people who took leave three years in a row so their kids would be close in age were the ones who dismissed fostering as a legitimate choice. Big, publicly traded company whose policies don’t matter as much as how your career might be stalled if you’re perceived as exploiting rules meant for ‘real’ parents. I gave my manager and my team a heads’ up and made sure I was always available via phone, and tried to go under the radar as much as possible (and took no official leave).

      It is beyond stressful to transition to your first foster child. Ours was in junior high and kids that age are dramatic enough for most parents, without adding the specific challenges that resulted in the fostering situation. I *needed* time at work to think about something else for a little while each day!

      Best of luck to you!

      1. LW #3 (foster parent)*

        Thank you so much! I am optimistic that I’d be able to shift some work responsibilities around (we’re in an industry where no one dies if something gets dropped) so that’s at least one parent who can help transition. Although you bring up a good point that perhaps my organization is less cool with this than I think they would (should?) be.

    9. Saberise*

      Even if they are eligible for paid leave there may be limits. The university I work at limits paid leave to once every 12 months for foster placement.

    10. LW #3 (foster parent)*

      Thanks for your insight as an adoptive parent! I’m in the US, so FMLA would be an option for sure.
      Your experience sounds awful, and I am so, so sorry that happened to you.
      I also really appreciate your point about making it easy to say yes. I’m a planner by nature, so I’m sure that will help me figure out a plan for myself and for my colleagues.

      1. jfgulia*

        On the planner front, that also really helped us. Because we were in a foster to adopt program, the conclusion of our home study was actually a meeting led by our social workers with our support system – parents and friends mostly, but my husband and I both chose to include our bosses in that meeting. In it, the social workers spelled out some of the unique challenges we would face and how we could be supported. And it was great to have that information come from a third party, not from us. And it made me feel better the first time I had to do an “I have to go and I can’t say why” with my boss because she had the info she needed to understand. And we’d already talked about how we would handle those scenarios. Also, my husband and I did a LOT of communicating (especially in the first year when things were rockiest) about each other’s workloads and who would be the “on call” person each day. That really helped as well, because if I had a crucial meeting or something that would be legitimately hard to miss, I could feel assured that he would take the lead on kid stuff.

        The other thing I’ll just mention (and your mileage may vary), but the transition from just being a working adult (who LOVES my job and attaches a fair amount of identity to it) to being a working parent was much more profound than I ever could have predicted. I did not give myself enough grace and space at first to work through the paradigm shift and how it would impact my ability to focus and perform at work – especially in the early days.

  3. Forrest Gumption*

    LW1: You most definitely need to get your customers’ permission before using their photos in ads! You don’t necessarily need a model release, since they are presumably not being paid, but they should give you written consent to have their images used online.

    1. Casper Lives*

      For sure! It’s funny that I interpreted there being a general release for that, but nothing specific about editing the photos. Rereading the letter doesn’t say there’s a release at all.

      1. Yvette*

        Same here, I could have sworn there was something about the customers already giving permission for the photos to be used and that the LW was just concerned about consent for the photo-shopping. I think when I read this “… since we pay for the photographer and the ad…” it gave me the impression that since the pictures were being taken by a professional photographer, and were more staged than candid, the customers knew what was going on.

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, this. I’m also wondering exactly how often this scenario is coming up… It sounds weird to think that they’d have photo sessions with customers more than once or twice a year or whenever they run a new advertising campaign.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        The dealership where are I bought my last car takes a picture of every customer picking up their new car. And I did get asked if I was willing to let them use the photo online or not. Otherwise it just goes on a bulletin board in the waiting room.

    3. Felis alwayshungryis*

      Moreover, their photo is being used on an actual ad, not just for vague marketing pics in a brochure. I have a feeling that there should be some kind of model release, even though they’re not getting paid.

    4. MK*

      Sure, but that permission doesn’t need to be a written release. Unless the OP is surreptitiously snapping candids, the clients know they are being photographed, and if they are specifically told the photos would be used in ads and they are not objecting, in many jurisdictions that would suffice as permission. It would be a good idea for the OP to check the laws in their area.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I hope this isn’t how it goes. If I were a customer and had to affirmatively opt out of being part of the company’s marketing, I wouldn’t be a customer much longer. Ask me nicely and I might agree, if it is a small company where I personally know the owner and have warm fuzzy thoughts about it.

        1. MK*

          But if I am talking about posed photos, obviously they are asking. I mean, people don’t just start posing for pictures at the end of a meeting, someone comes up and says something along the lines of “we would like to take a photo to use in our brochure/ ads/etc” and, if the client goes along with it, usually that counts as permission. It’s not that you have to opt out, it’s that permission can be tacit.

          1. Malarkey01*

            You’re right jurisdictions does matter, but there is a distinction in most between a posed photo to mark a big deal or signing being used in a company newsletter or even brochure versus a paid advertisement in print media. I have posed for many photos for ribbon cuttings, signings, corporate retreats without any expectation it would be used in paid advertising. Taking that photo and slapping an endorsement over it would be a misuse.

            1. Koalafied*

              Yes, I work for a nonprofit that has had to be very careful about this when it comes to photos taken at public outdoor events. This is of course not legal advice but what our lawyers have told us is:
              1) outdoors there is no legal expectation of privacy, so taking photos and posting them in an event write-up/newsletter/etc is legal, but
              2) if we want to use the photo alongside a donation ask, like a banner ad or donation form on the website, we need explicitly permission for this use, and
              3) if the photo subject is a minor, you need a parent/guardian’s permission for any use, even editorial/non-commercial.

              I don’t know how much of that is legal and how much of it is just being extra careful about not creating a damaging PR incident that could hurt our ability to raise moneyeven if what we did was technically legal, but it’s better to be safe than sorry with something like this. You can’t undo sharing something online – you can take it down but who knows who might have seen it or saved it while it was up and companies lost customers/ nonprofits lose donors over “technically legal” stuff all the time. The last thing you want to be doing is finding yourself arguing the law with with a would-be supporter whose trust you have broken.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          If you’ve ever gone to a ticketed event in the US (conventions, sporting events, fundraisers, the zoo, etc), look at the fine print on the ticket and you’re likely to see a statement that attendance is permission for the organization to use your likeness in marketing materials. I’ve seen this type of notice prominently displayed in a number of places where tickets aren’t required when a park or whatever is updating their photos.

    5. NYWeasel*

      IMHO, it’s even more important to have a signed release when you aren’t working with paid professionals because there is just so much room for misinterpretations and misunderstandings. How long does OP’s company have the right to use the images? Can they use it for general “happy customer” ads or do they need to be specifically connected to the projects that were worked on? If OP works for a smaller company, even having one lawsuit could be devastating.

      OP, I think that’s the best way to address your specific concerns about the retouching. Look for a boilerplate photography release, and talk to your boss about the financial dangers of not having the releases (ie cost to address with a lawyer). I feel like I’ve worked for people like your boss before, and their big hesitation is usually that a contract will scare off the customers because it’s “too formal”. The way to counter that is by showing your boss how you can position it as a protection for the customer (“We have a basic release that outlines that we’re only going to use your photo for X, Y and Z. If we ever wanted to use it for something else, we’ll discuss it with you first.”)

      I recently had to institute a very formal tracking system with a bunch of grouchy older men who feel that lawyers and rules are “ruining the country!” There was a little pushback at first from both the managers and the customers, but I focused on highlighting the positives for both groups, and now they all brag about how the system is the best in the country. When I come across the occasional grouchy holdout, I acknowledge that it’s an extra step but remind them that “not every customer is as reasonable as you are!” That’s usually enough to overcome their resistance because pretty much everyone is used to signing releases all the time.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        “a bunch of grouchy older men who feel that lawyers and rules are “ruining the country!””
        I k now how that goes. They want to deal on a handshake basis. This works great, until it doesn’t. That is when both sides are shocked to discover that the other guy didn’t understand the deal exactly the same way.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          They want to deal on a handshake basis so they can screw over the person they’re dealing with and claim the deal was completely different from what it really was, or that there was never a deal at all.

          Never trust people who don’t want to put things in writing.

    6. Malarkey01*

      Yes! I made this point above. Either you have permission for the ad in which case you own the image and photoshop isn’t an issue, OR you have a bigger problem on your hands and you are using images without consent.

    7. Kikikins*

      I came down here to say this exactly! To use anyone’s photo in marketing materials you need a signed model release on file!

    8. Lavender Menace*

      I was coming to say this. Part of my job is being involved with making educational and marketing videos for teams, and you are potentially opening yourself up to a lot of liability without a media release.

  4. KiwiApple*

    3 – your most recent jobs are all explained easily. You can do all the due diligence you want as Alison says for the next job but the truth is things could change in your next job too (laid off, job role changes etc) so then you’re looking for another, another job.

    I would say I an classed as a job hopper per AAM standards but it has never been an issue for me because I have strong answers for why I had short term jobs in my past.

    Life is too short to be miserable in a job. I would definitely start looking. I personally wouldn’t stick to AAM’s advice about staying in a job for 3 years next time around – it depends what’s best for you. If you end up leaving after 18 months or something then that’s what happens. You don’t need to stick to a 3 year rule (in a prev job, I was told it takes 1 yr to learn the job, 1 yr to do it and 1 yr to change it/make changes) I wonder if AAM thinks on a similar line?

    Depends on your industry and the job market as well. The future looks tough economically around the world for a lot of people.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      To answer your question — it depends very much on the job and the field. But in general, the more you develop a pattern of short-term stays (excluding ones that were intended to be short-term from the start, like temp or contract jobs), the more questions it raises for good employers and the more it will constrict your options (for all the reasons here). That doesn’t mean you’ll never find a job again; it just means it’ll lower your options (for most people, in most fields — there are of course exceptions). That’s why it would be smart for the OP to use the next job to counter that pattern (although obviously your career isn’t the end-all, be-all and other things could end up taking priority over that concern).

      And yeah, of course nothing is guaranteed and a good job can change into a bad job — but the point is that when you need the next job to show some stability on your resume, you really want to look before you leap in way that people often neglect to do when they’re trying to escape an unpleasant situation.

    2. Kate*

      I agree with both the comments here. No amount of time is worth it to be unhappy but I guess its what you can tolerate and the story you can tell. I got made redundant during COVID and took the first and only job in my field advertised which I knew would not be challenging enough for me but I need a job. I think its understandable that I am looking for another job as I’m miserable but I dont know how this will be reflecting in the future sometimes things just happen so I would never rule someone out completely for a short one or two stint (especially since you have a 12 year stint on there)

    3. MK*

      Life is also too long to be miserable in the series of jobs one keeps taking to avoid being miserable. The problem with job hopping isn’t that you will never get another job, it’s that you are lowering your chances for getting the kind of job you will want to stay at.

    4. BRR*

      I think the move is easily explained. But while “I left for a dream job and now I’m looking to leave because it’s drastically different than I thought it would be” is technically an explanation, it’s not a great explanation while interviewing.

      I fully agree life is too short to stay at a job you hate. But there are reasons why employers would not want to hire people with a series of short stays, it’s not just some weird formality that people follow that doesn’t make sense.

      1. Nea*

        Thing is, we’ve all been granted a backhanded gift for job hopping right now. “Why did you leave the company so quickly after returning to it?” “COVID.” Say you felt that there wasn’t enough to protect you, say that the mitigation plan didn’t work for you; blame it on the pandemic.

        1. Just call me Kermit*

          Lw#3 here- (un)fortunately my industry has been largely unaffected by the pandemic. While I am not always comfortable with the mitigation strategies (or lack of) in place, I don’t think a covid reason will work for me as they are viewed as industry standard or above.

      2. Just call me Kermit*

        LW #3 here- thanks for the candid feedback. That was my concern as well. I think I’m just going to try to put my head down and get through for at least another 12-18 months.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I would think that you would be safe in saying that the job you had hired on to do radically changed into a different job which was one you didn’t want to be in. I mean, they changed your duties, which is a good reason to leave, especially if the changes were not going to help your career go in the direction you want it to.

    5. anon73*

      Yes life is too short to stay in a miserable job. But if you have a series of short term jobs, the common denominator is you. Why do you keep ending up in jobs that make you miserable? Are you not vetting the companies before you accept a position? Are you desperate to leave your current miserable job so you overlook things that would give you pause to accept the new job, and then end up in a new miserable job? I don’t think OP has anything to worry about here since companies can see that she was at her previous job for 12 years and only left because she moved, but generally job hopping will reflect badly on the applicant.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Are you desperate to leave your current miserable job so you overlook things that would give you pause to accept the new job, and then end up in a new miserable job?

        That was my big mistake with my worst job. I didn’t really think through leaving the previous job–not that I made a bad decision, I just made a good decision hastily–and hadn’t wrapped my head around the idea of being unemployed for a few months, even though I had the savings to survive it, and being picky about the next position. I took the first thing that came along, and it came along easily… and paid for it.

        After leaving that job, I took more time and looked at contract (finite-duration) jobs, so if things went south again, I had a built-in out to take.

      2. Just call me Kermit*

        LW #3 here- I was very happy at my out of state job but family circumstances forced my return to home state. I took the first available job at that point because I had to be close to family. I planned to stay there but the job I always wanted became open at my prior company so I made a move, fully intending this would be another several year stint as I had worked there for 12 years before. I think this is the only move that I would or could have done differently. I knew their were leadership changes and recent turn over but I ignored this due to my history with the company and the company’s reputation overall (very well respected nationally within the industry). While I respect your “common demominator” comment, I don’t think there is pattern here as I haven’t been “miserable” before.

        1. Smithy*

          I think that the previous comment largely mentioned the assumptions that can be held to job hoppers more so than your situation specifically. And ultimately, what can be challenging is the time and space it may take on a cover letter or during an interview to address those moves, rather than just focusing on “these are my skill sets and experiences, and why I’d be a great fit for this job.”

          That being said, I don’t know if your industry engages with external recruiting agencies often – but for my sector, once a recruiting firms knows/likes you, I’ve been contacted for interviews after having only been in a new job for six months. While it certainly comes up eventually in the interview, it’s often later on in the process and allows for a more nuanced conversation.

        2. Firecat*

          I think you need to take some time to determine what your wants and needs are for the next job. From your job history it seems like you are chasing the happiness you had at your 12 year job, and you haven’t been able to find it even at that same company.

          It sounds like that may not be the case given your explanations – but that would be my read from your resume so I think it is worth evaluating so you can head it off in a cover letter if you do decide to leave again.

        3. anon73*

          My comment was not a reflection on your letter, but the original comment I’m responding to…in fact I specifically stated that you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.

      3. Sparrow*

        Yeah, I think the 12-year run would allay a lot of my concerns re. job hopping, especially if it was clear that one of the shorter-term jobs was in another location. Honestly, my thought process would probably be something like, “Oh, I guess the move didn’t work out and then they took the first job they could find when they moved back.” I would probably put a mental asterisk there as something to ask about, but it wouldn’t deter me from bringing someone in for an interview.

    6. LQ*

      I think the assumption that you get to explain is the thing that’s unclear. If you are a hiring manager and you are looking at 100 resumes and you need to start making decisions you’re not going to call everyone and ask for an explaination about the thing you have concerns about. You are just going to set those that aren’t the most qualified looking or intreaguing to the side and never do anything with them.

      This doesn’t mean no jobs ever, it just means that there are likely to be jobs you won’t be the best candidate on paper for even if you could excel. You can come at that with things like having a strong network or a great cover letter or other skills.

      It is just one in a series of many things on the scorecard of “should I move the person to the next step” that hiring managers have in their heads. Don’t over value it (and assume you’re never going to get another job because you lost one job after 6 months) but don’t under value it (and assume that it doesn’t matter at all and eff everyone and you should just quit every job you have to do work at after a week).

    7. Luke*

      This brings up a question- when should employees develop coping techniques for toxic employers?

      I don’t wish to condone these work environments. That said, forces beyond the individual employees control can turn a positive work environment into a toxic one. Leaving may not be a practical option either- some industries by nature create toxic workplaces (like startups) , and people starting out with little employer history wont have reliable references. Neither does the tenured employee with a toxic direct boss.

      In an ideal world, we could all just leave for a better organization. Unfortunately, some of use can’t. What can we do to cope with the toxicity?

      1. Colette*

        I think a big part is being able to detach – get up at the end of the day and go home and forget about work.

        Another part is having people who respect you professionally and will promote you to their network (which is one of the places where job hopping hurts you – you won’t build a solid reputation if you have the longevity of an intern – I’ll put interns who do solid work in touch with people who can help their career, but not a regular employee who stays less than a year.) Even if you can’t leave, it helps to be able to talk with people who have confidence in your abilities.

        If you can, develop new skills that will take you to a better company/job.

        If you’re making a choice to stay there (because it’s close to home, lets you work the hours you want, or pays more than comparable jobs), remind yourself that you have chosen it because it gets you what you want.

        And finally, have parts of your life outside of your work that are rewarding. Develop a hobby; take a class; do some volunteer work – do something that makes you feel like you’ve accomplished something.

      2. Smithy*

        I think that a huge part about the coping mechanisms for toxic work environments are a combination of finding ways to destress and disengage from work, while remaining active and engaged in positive environments.

        One of the worst side effects of a toxic workplace is that it leaves a mark on what you perceive as professional norms. It can include a range of things someone acclimates to like being micromanaged, having unclear or shifting expectations, and unprofessional interpersonal skills like yelling or ghosting. As a result, your professional instincts can get recalibrated on things like when to cc/bcc your boss, how bad/disappointing news is shared, and how to receive feedback.

        Without just rushing to therapy – though that may be part of it – I think this is why being very mindful to be engaged with other parts of our life without mirroring those habits. Whether it’s a community of worship, a hobby, or just family and friends – being mindful to not use behaviors that do reflect trust and transparency are good to be a reminder of how things can/should be, but also so those instincts and muscles stay limber.

        So to ensure that you don’t bring those muscle memories home or into a hobby, it’s about finding those ways to signal to yourself “work-me who has to behave this way turns off so that home-me turns on.” It could be exercising, showering, meditating, time alone, time with tv, whatever – but finding something that takes a discrete amount of time. If you’ve hit the point where you need hours every night/on the weekends to completely disengage and detach from work toxicity….then it’s time for therapy.

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        I admit one thing that helped me a little is seeing the bad behavior of coworkers and employers as future gossip fodder. Without names attached in online spaces like this… WITH names attached for people who might encounter them in person.

  5. Courtney*

    The job-hopping question was well timed for me – I have just accepted a new job, making it my 3rd job in just under 3 years. Both my previous jobs have been planned to be long term for me but I am still worried about the optics.

  6. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    #3: Related question: my last several moves have been due to my husband’s visa not coming through (and us relocating to his home country) and his starting a new program in a new industry. Would a potential employer see moving for a spouse’s career changes as risky in some way?

    1. WS*

      If the problem was ongoing yes, but it sounds like you’ve relocated to his home country so there’s no more need for sudden moves due to visa problems.

    2. Kimmybear*

      It depends. Military spouses encounter this but in international development moving is pretty normal and expected.

    3. Not playing your game anymore*

      We get a lot of military spouses applying for our jobs. The airbase is just 10 miles down the road. And well, yes it’s a problem. If we get an applicant with a ton of relevant experience we’ll take a chance. But someone new to the field definitely is at a disadvantage compared to someone with a more stable work history. It takes quite a long time get up to speed for our jobs and if we think you’ll be gone in 12 to 18 months…

  7. Kate*

    #2 My boss is the same, it is so unprofessionally he is a first time manager and is more interested in venting or gossiping then actually discussing work performance. It is very frustrating. I’ve found what help is to tell him that I like to hear constructive feedback and to ask for it. The problem then is some of it was very petty but I took that into account with his management style. But really makes me wonder what he is saying about me considering he talks so candidly to me about anyone and everyone.

  8. Lady Heather*

    LW1 – your boss is disgusting. If he wants people in the ad who meet a certain beauty standard, he should hire a model.

    (And then Photoshop them, probably, as seems to be common in modelling.)


  9. germank106*

    #1: You might want to research Privacy Laws for your State. There are some States that severely limit what you can/cannot do to a photo. This falls under the “Right to Publicity”.
    Here in Missouri the statute reads as follows: “Missouri has long recognized under the rubric of “privacy,” a property right in one’s image and the right to control its use. To establish a violation of the right of publicity a plaintiff must establish that: (1) the defendant used the plaintiff’s identity; (2) without consent; and (3) “with the intent to obtain a commercial advantage.”
    So if you would take my photo without my consent and then use it in an advertisement you would be guilty of all three points outlined in the statute.
    Other States might have different laws. I think it’s great that your Boss says that she would take full responsibility, but that might not help you if your Company gets sued by a client. You were the one altering the Photo and you are a legal adult.
    I am also wondering if your Company even gets consent from the clients to take their photo to begin with. I would consult an attorney or talk to your HR department about your concerns.

      1. Anonymouse*

        “I have suggested taking a release form with us for the subjects to sign giving us permission but she brushed it off.”

        It sounds like the company is not getting permission for customers to have their image used in marketing materials. If a company used my image like this (even without the photoshop angle) I wouldn’t be a customer any longer.

        1. MK*

          They are not getting a signed release document, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t getting permission. Photo sessions are not a normal part of meetings with clients, so they must be asking for it and providing an explanation. I imagine it goes like this “we would like to take a photo to use in our marketing, is it ok?” or “can we take a photo? What for? Oh we will use it in our marketing.”. Now if they are misrepresenting how the photo will be used, e.g. they say it will be framed and hung in the office and then it is used in an ad, or even worse if they are taking candid photos without the clients knowledge, that obviously is illegal.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            If they’re getting permission to take the photo in the first place, it would be easy to add in a “plus some photoshopping”. But the way OP has phrased it, I get the impression that no permission is sought at all.

  10. Malika*

    You Have worked at this company for 12 years and then returned to it after a few short stints elsewhere. I do not know how old you are, but that is most uncommonly loyal. A friend of mine applied to a different job and was asked questions on whether she felt institutionalized! This counteracts the short tenures elsewhere. I wouldn’t in your case worry about looking like a job hopper, but i would take Alison’s advice to vet the next place throroughly while staying on at next job. It makes your life much easier and financially succesful if you can leave good stints at companies and be in the driving seat regarding which job will next come on to your CV. That requires longevity and a workplace that doesn’t drive you to drink in the interim. Good luck in making the right decision!

  11. WS*

    I have a part-time co-worker who is a registered foster parent. She can quite suddenly need time off (kids arriving in the middle of the night on an hour’s notice) and her husband is a farmer, so he’ll either be completely flexible or completely unavailable depending on the time of year. She has a standing arrangement with two other staff members who can cover her at short notice for one day if called (and they let each other know when they’re not available) but really, she’s so diligent and thorough with her work that it’s fairly easy for someone to pick up where she left off, whether it’s for a day or a week. One thing with foster kids is that you can’t have grandparents come and babysit for a few hours (unless they’re also registered foster carers), so when she needs to take a kid to an appointment, either she or her husband have to do it, and we’re in a rural area so that can be most of a day. But everyone stays flexible and it all works out.

    1. FearNot*

      Yeah, I was actually a little surprised how much time I had to take off to deal with the kids I was hosting. They have appointments ALL THE TIME and constantly have to be driven places. I had a super relaxed workplace at that time that offered a ton of leave and let me take it whenever I wanted as long as projects weren’t being delayed, so it worked well for me. It might be tougher at a less flexible employer.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Yes, this. The foster child I mentored through a volunteer program had appointments for birth parent visitation, visitation with siblings who were in a different foster home, therapy, some sort of separate program for sexual abuse survivors, academic tutoring, visits from the social worker, and visits with me. All court-ordered, so it wasn’t like the parents could just reschedule on a whim. And for a while there were regular court appearances for the foster parents (not the child, fortunately) as the birth parents pushed for reunification but failed to meet their required steps for it. And that’s before you get into normal kid stuff like signing them up for a soccer team (where you can’t necessarily drop them off while you run errands, because of rules around supervision).

        The social worker and I at least showed up at the house to take the child out, rather than requiring her to be driven somewhere, and some of it was on weekends, but it actually really shifted my thinking about having foster kids someday – it’s not compatible with some kinds of careers.

    2. IT Heathen*

      >>One thing with foster kids is that you can’t have grandparents come and babysit for a few hours (unless they’re also registered foster carers)

      This isn’t true in all states. We have a list of “designated short term caretakers” that can take the kids for up to 12 hours. These were set up when we became foster parents, and they have to have a background check and reference letters. The laws on this will vary state-to-state.

    3. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      This is getting at exactly what I’m trying to plan for – I know it’s planning for the things you can’t predict which is tough, but I figure the more I know and the more I can warn people (within reason), the better. Thanks!!

  12. BubbleTea*

    The requirement for 90 days notice for parental leave doesn’t even make sense for people who have children biologically – sometimes babies are premature! Sometimes things change suddenly. This seems like an odd policy and they surely must have had to make exceptions in the past.

    1. Beep*

      I was thinking this too – even if babies aren’t premature there’s about a month range in what would be considered normal in terms of when they could be born, unless there’s a scheduled c-section (and even then, it could come early).

    2. AcademiaNut*

      It doesn’t need to be that strict – I read it more as putting in notice of parental leave at about the six month mark of the pregnancy, so they have time to arrange for covering of duties and substitutes without things being rushed. If the baby shows up early, or it’s a complicated pregnancy, it would be dealt with the way any other sudden health emergency would be.

      1. doreen*

        I suspect it also may be to avoid what I’ve seen couple of times – people not mentioning a pregnancy until two weeks before they expect to go on leave. Which of course means if the baby shows up early or there are complications, there is no time to plan at all.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Here you need to give notice by about 25 weeks gestation to take advantage of most benefits and accommodations, but that’s more to guarantee they will be ready on time, and you can still be flexible about your actual dates until, well, the baby arrives. And it can all be backdated in the case of a surprise pregnancy (eg a family member had nine months of doctors appointments for amenorrhea and other unexplained symptoms before she suddenly gave birth to a 7lb daughter).

        I assume people can’t give ninety days’ notice in many FMLA situations such as car accidents or acute appendicitis. The system must be able to work it out.

          1. Me*

            So for me the standard urine pregnancy tests were negative. I found out by ultrasound because i was having unexplained pain. If they took a pregnancy test early on in their attempts to diagnose and it was negative, they very well could have just been operating on the assumption they ruled out pregnancy. Some people don’t show/gain weight. It’s not common but it does happen.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              yes, the pregnancy tests you buy at a pharmacy typically test for a substance that you produce in huge quantities in the first month or so of pregnancy. I happened to have (slightly lighter than usual) periods in the early months of pregnancy so I only tested at 4 months, which came back negative because at 4m you no longer produce that substance.

          2. introverted af*

            I had a biology teacher in high school tell us in class one day, “well, I’m 8 months pregnant, and it’s November, so I won’t be around next semester for a while.” Apparently this had happened with all her pregnancies (the child she announced to my class was her 4th)

          3. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Another piece of anecdata:
            16 years before my birth, my mother had been told that she’d never have any more children. That and she was 44 — no one believed her. They wanted to send her to the hospital for exploratory surgery for a tumor. (Before CAT scans.)

            1. Gazebo Slayer*

              Oh man, that sounds like something out of Call the Midwife.

              Wait, there actually *was* a Call the Midwife episode much like that …

    3. MK*

      Sure biological children don’t arrive on schedule either, but there is at least a general idea. It’s one thing to say you will stay till December and leave in early November, and another to give only a few days notice.

      1. Natalie*

        I don’t think they’re functionally that different? There’s a date after which it’s possible they’ll need leave (viability for a pregnancy, approval date for the foster parents). And then it’s a bit unpredictable. Pregnancies obviously have a more obvious bell curve of when that leave starts, but it’s not guaranteed so one would hope the policies have some kind of flex in them.

        1. Yorick*

          In most cases, you can give 3 months notice about going on maternity leave due to giving birth, although the date may not be exact. You might get a foster child placed with you without more than one day notice.

          1. Not playing your game anymore*

            But you did know you were going through the foster parent screening. I’d think that letting work know “hey we’ve been approved as foster parents” We’ll give you as much notice as we can, but …

            Friends were on the list to adopt several years ago, had been waiting for a couple of years when they got the call that an infant was available and they could pick him up the next day.

        2. MK*

          Eh, there is a huge difference, because it’s “a bit unpredictable” with pregnancy, but “completely unpredictable” with fostering. If an employee says they want to start their leave on December, a prudent manager has a rough plan for covering their workload and/or hiring a replacement; if the employee has to leave sooner, they can finalize the coverage plan sooner or speed up the replacement hiring process, but at worst they will only have a few weeks without coverage. If you have an employee who gets their license to foster on December, but there is no way to know whether they will get a child on December 2nd or June or next year, plus they don’t know how much notice they will have or possibly how much time they will need, coverage becomes a lot more complicated. In a lot of jobs finding a replacement at short notice is impossible and formulating a plan to cover the workload seven months in advance is pretty useless. They are things you can do, and it must be accommodated of course, but it’s not the same.

    4. Blackcat*

      Maybe my friends just work for particularly uncharitable employers, but I’ve known two women who got fired in exactly this circumstance–they had very premature babies and they themselves needed to be hospitalized for some time. Because they didn’t follow the FMLA rules to the letter (in one case, the woman was hospitalized for 16 weeks, so longer than FMLA, in the other, her infant was premature enough HR had not been notified she was pregnant at all), they were let go. The second case wasn’t legal, but they had just had a 25 week premature infant and weren’t in any state to fight it, legally.

      If I were OP, I’d ask around to see if you can find anyone who has adopted or fostered while employed there. If you get a sense of “Oh, HR says those rules but OF COURSE they were understanding about my situation.” great! But you could hear, “They were a pain about FMLA, so I used up my PTO.”

      1. Des*

        Holy… those employers are nasty. Terminating someone who had a premature baby? Yikes.
        Your poor friends!

      2. Elenna*

        Wowww. In addition to their terrible morals, that just sounds like it will be really bad for those companies in the long run. If I heard that my co-worker had been fired for the high crime of having a premature baby, I’d start job searching immediately, since that’s a clear sign that anyone else who gets unexpectedly sick will be screwed over. In the end it’ll just result in their losing a lot more valuable employees…

        1. Lavender Menace*

          This. An employer who is nasty and inflexible about premature babies struggling to survive is likely to be nasty and inflexible about MANY other things, and I’d want out. Employers seem to believe they’re holding their employees hostage or something.

      3. Amy*

        The language of FMLA is “the employee must provide notice of the need for leave as soon as possible and practical.” That was clearly illegal in the case of the preemie since you usually have very little notice of a premature birth. I hope someone has sued that company over its illegal policies since then.

      4. LW #5 (foster parent)*

        Yeah, I may ask around. It’s a big university so someone has had to go through this at some point, I figure.
        And your friends worked for assholes and I’m super sorry.

    5. Awkward Interviewee*

      It may be 90 days before the due date. My employer’s policy was 30 days before due date. When my child was born 5 weeks early, we just changed the dates on the form, no big deal. Obviously this is still a problem in foster and adoption situations. Many employers would have a different policy for foster and adoptions situations, I assume.

    6. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      I feel the same way – there must be some flexibility, but I do understand the rationale of not wanting someone coming in saying “by the way I need 3 months’ leave starting tomorrow” without SOME kind of notice.

  13. Baker's dozen*

    I’m an adoptive parent and I ended up giving extremely short notice to my workplaces (same day for one, one week for another) that I was going on a year’s adoption leave.

    It only worked because I laid the groundwork first. I spoke to HR and to my manager ahead of time.

    I made sure that they were aware of my legal entitlements and what the contract said about adoption leave. In one of my workplaces I had to get them to update their policy as they hadn’t noticed a change in the law that had come into force the previous year. Make sure that you know exactly what you’re entitled to before you start the conversation with work. Does your agency have useful info?

    With my manager it was more of putting plans in place so that things would run smoothly once I got the call about a match. It’s open ended (I was family finding for 18 months) which is tricky to manage but we came up with a broad plan and I documented EVERYTHING. We came up with a more detailed plan once there was a potential match identified.

    1. Sparkly Librarian*

      Yes, I had two adoptive placements where the baby was already born when we got the call (one where I left work midday for the hospital, and one where I got an evening call and texted my supervisor that I would be out the next day), and my boss said multiple times that having a plan in place beforehand made it much easier for them to cover my work while I was out. No prior notice for the specific pregnancy — but I had already spoken with my employer once homestudy-approved about the general possibility of needing to take leave, and made preparations for my absence as far as I could without knowing a date. In the first instance, the placement was reversed after a couple of days, and I took a week of (now coded non-FMLA-eligible) leave to grieve; the second time around it fell so that I had one day of sick leave (“to care for a family member in the hospital” being the applicable language), a weekend, and then I returned to work Monday and Tuesday until we could get coverage set up. It worked out that I worked one day a week for the first month after baby came home (4 days intermittent FMLA each week), and then I took 6 weeks uninterrupted, and then I used our state’s paid family leave to work 4-day weeks for another couple months.

      I’m about to have the same conversation with a new boss, as our homestudy for a second child is in full swing. I think it’s important for a foster or adoptive family to set the expectation with the employer (including direct supervisor) so there can be a backup plan in cases of short notice. LW should talk about various possibilities based on what age, etc. they are certified for/open to, as there will be a big difference between taking long-term placement of a 6-year-old who is continuing at their current school and taking placement of a newborn with special medical needs, for example.

      1. LW #5 (foster parent)*

        This is really helpful. We are open to kids as young as infants, so your schedule lined out is quite helpful. Thanks!!!

    2. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      Ooh, this is really good to know. I’ll make sure to ask the agency a ton of questions as well.

  14. Kate, short for Bob*

    Can you foster with both parents in full time work? When you’re looking at shorter term placements with children who may need much more intensive parenting to counteract the circumstances that put them into the system? It seems unduly optimistic to me, but I’d be happy to be wrong

    1. doreen*

      It probably depends on the specifics- when I worked in CPS, there were emergency foster homes that would accept children at a moment’s notice, longer-term foster homes that children might be placed in after a couple of days in an emergency home, and foster-to adopt homes, which were always intended to be long term. I can’t imagine that the emergency homes didn’t have a parent at home full time, but I’m sure many of the foster-to-adopt homes didn’t have a parent at home full-time.

    2. Sam*

      Absolutely! Outside of newborns who require 24/7 care and kids with significant disabilities that aren’t able to attend school or day support programs, most foster families have two working parents. Sometimes the additional benefits lets one parent work part-time or at a more flexible job, but not always.

      Structure and routine are really important – if the goal is that the child attends school daily, then generally the best practice is for them to start going to school every day within a couple of days of arrival. If the goal is that the child becomes used to after-school care at a local center, they should start ASAP.

      It does require some flexibility, but there are options – if parents work a job that make taking time off to provide transportation for weekly therapy appointments, for example, they may be able to have their social worker approve and pay for a babysitter to do that work, or have a case aide (support person employed by the government) provide transportation. Most governments are so desperate for foster families that they’re willing to work with pretty much any family situation, including working parents and single parents.

    3. littledoctor*

      I aged out of foster care. Every foster family I had was either two working parents, or a single working parent. It’s very common. Foster families are normal families like any other, and in most families, all parents work.

    4. Fosterino*

      Yes, both parents can work (and had better do so in expensive cities because that foster stipend is not going to stretch very far). Single parents (who don’t have a working partner to support them) can also foster – it’s less common, but there are a significant percentage of single-parent foster families in my city.

    5. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      In my state, yes, although it is super common state-wide for the mother to stay at home for any kind of kid.

  15. Mr McGregor's Gardener*

    #1. This reminded me of a rather extreme example of misjudging the amount of photoshop you can use. In the 90s, Ford took a photo of some of their workers in the UK, and particularly wanted to showcase their diversity, so made a point of including numerous non-white employees. It was used in some of their UK promotions, so far, so good. Then they wanted to run a similar campaign in Poland, but decided they couldn’t be bothered to take a photo of the Polish workers, and just reused the UK photo. But the racial demographic in Poland is different to the one in the UK. Can you see where this is going?

    So they just photoshopped white faces onto the non-white workers bodies, to make an all-white lineup. And then the photo was somehow used back in the UK. One woman was reported to be shocked to see that she’d aged 20 years, put in 10 pounds and turned white! The plant where the photo had been taken lost a load of money after the workers walked out in disgust, and they had to pay compensation to the photoshopped workers.

  16. Jennifer*

    #1 please feel free to photoshop me if I ever appear in an ad. Push back if you feel strongly but if your boss doesn’t budge I don’t really see what else you can do.

    #5 Can you give your boss a head’s up when you are closer to the end of the approval process? As someone mentioned above, even with a biological kid it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint the exact day and time the child will appear. Most people just give notice that it’s going to happen. That way you can start prepping the person who will be filling in for you early and no one will feel blindsided if you get a placement right away.

    1. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      Hi, #5 here! I can wait a bit longer although I’m kind of excited. :) I think I’m going to get to thinking about how I might delegate some of my stuff to make it easier on my colleagues.

  17. agnes*

    Parental leave for a foster placement is covered by FMLA. The law requires 30 days or or “foreseeable notice” prior to taking leave. I don’t know how foreseeable it can be when you are a foster parent, and I doubt that your organization’s policy is compliant with the law. Even birth babies don’t come on schedule.

    You can let them know you are in the foster parent approval process and you will give them as much notice as you have.

    1. Malarkey01*

      The thing with FMLA is that they must give you the leave and protect your job, it does NOT have to be paid. In order for paid time off the company can make almost any rule they want about notice and conditions.
      My guess is her big company is well within the law and won’t deny leave, but has conditions about paying for that leave. And, at their discretion they can waive their rules to pay if a baby comes early.

  18. Bluesboy*

    Am I misreading something? Allison talks about four jobs – twelve years, nine months, one year and one year.

    But I can’t see anything to suggest that OP worked immediately after leaving the 12 year job, at least until she returned to her home state. She specifically mentions that she’s worried about a third change in three years, which surely implies only two changes so far?

    I THINK that she had a twelve year job, left it, moved away. Less than a year later, moved back, got her second job, stayed a year (“A year later my ‘dream’ job opened up at my previous employer”). Got a third job and has been there 9 months so far.

    It seems to me that there have been two job changes so far. Considering that she was in her original role for 12 years before leaving because of a move, really only one ‘short-term job’ move.

    For me, considering that it will probably take 3+ months to find a new job, I think it’s fine. A twelve year job, ended by a move. One job for a year, leaving to go back to her previous employer where she had been very happy. Seems reasonable enough for now. So she interviews somewhere else now, she hardly has a pattern so far and can easily explain that she wasn’t actively looking, but this role/sector/company is a really interesting opportunity.

    As long as then she stays three years or so in the next new job, I think she’s absolutely fine.

    1. Just call me Kermit*

      Lw#3 here- I did work when we moved out of state. I was in that position for 9 months before we returned home. So if I leave my current position it will be 3 short term jobs.

      1. Bluesboy*

        Thanks for clarifying. I still think that you’re fine if I’m honest, given that two of the changes are for geographical moves and one to return to an old employer where you were happy.

        I think short-term jobs can lead to the job hopping issue, but only where there aren’t valid reasons (or the reasons aren’t explained well. As long as you are clear about your reasons, and you do a good stint in the next job, considering there is already a 12-year stint on your resume. I would make clear that you aren’t planning to move again, and I think you’re fine. Good luck!

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      I think OP had a nine month stint in the new state before returning then the one year/one year combo back home.

  19. Jules*

    As a fat person who practices radical body acceptance, I would be very upset if my image was photoshopped to change my body shape without my permission. It demonstrates a clear disdain for me, and for people with bodies like mine. By editing photos in this way, your company is clearly signaling that they are comfortable with sizeism and ageism. At the very least, you would lose me as a future customer. But to have all this done without a signed release? Well, now I’d be upset AND angry, and would be speaking with a lawyer about sending a cease & desist letter to prevent future use of my image. And probably posting warnings to the online body acceptance communities I belong to. And definitely updating my yelp review, telling my mom and grandma to stay away, letting my knitting club know that company doesn’t value senior citizens as customers, etc etc etc.

    1. Jennifer*

      I’m confused by this letter. Are the customers not signing a release at all or are they signing one, just not one that specifically mentions photo editing?

      1. Observer*

        In this context it doesn’t matter – the company is definitely doing something that it has not gotten permission for.

        1. Jennifer*

          I actually think it may matter. Maybe someone that knows more about this kind of thing could weigh in. I don’t know if the release has to specifically mention photoshopping in order for it to be allowed.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            I don’t think we’re completely in the realm of “allowed”. If I sign a lease and it mentions photo editing (if I read the fineprint in the first place) I would assume it’s about removing weird light, maybe a twig in front of my face, maybe a weird speck over my shape that is unclear (maybe a stain, maybe something unidentifiable); I may expect some standard filters about color correction, smoothing, sharpening, backlighting. I would expect to look somewhat more “cleaned up” than on a cell phone snapshot. But I would not expect my figure to be changed, my neck shape to be edited or intentionally to be made to look younger. Even if I have no legal recourse because it is covered by the letter of the release I would be angry. You don’t want to do inappropriate things, and twice not to your customers!

    2. Happy*

      I would be frustrated to find that they photoshopped me without permission, too. Who is this company to decide that their customers’ bodies aren’t good enough?

  20. anon73*

    #2 – in addition to what Alison suggests, I would also mention the venting because she may not realize she’s dominating your meetings with her complaints. Trying to steer her in the right direction for your meetings may work, but a more direct approach might snap her out of it. At my last job I was miserable. The company was repeating the same BS with new management over and over, my position had changed so much that I was bored out of my mind, and I hated my manager. She pulled me aside one day and said that the 2 newest member of the team had asked her why I was still there because I complained about the place so much. I honestly didn’t realize it was that bad. You say you have a great relationship so you should be able to be honest with her.
    #4 – as Alison said there was no scam, but I’d be highly skeptical of a company that wanted to hire me with no formal interview. Unless they’ve worked with you in the past, that’s really odd. And an interview isn’t just for the company to see if you’re qualified and if you would mesh with the team, it’s also for you. I would never accept a job without – at the very least – talking to someone on the phone.

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      I came here to say the same about #4. A company that doesn’t even want to talk with me before hiring me raises massive red flags. Even with a verbal promise I would put it way down on the stack of contacts I expect to end up with me actually working for them. Extremely shady.

  21. chewingle*

    For parental leave, have you considered asking your boss what can be done? Those policies sound like they were written for employees who have a clearer date (ie, are pregnant). But for foster parents and adoptive parents, there isn’t a clear timeline. This is something that needs to be addressed by whoever writes those policies. But your manager is a good place to start.

    1. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      That’s kind of what I’m thinking. I trust my boss to help me navigate the bureaucracy pretty well. We can figure something out!

  22. Mary*

    Hi! My husband and I both work full time at a company that offered 12 weeks paid leave for foster placements. I told my manager once we started the process (September 2019) and kept her up to date on the timing of our license. Our agency told us that we would probably get a placement within a week of getting licensed. Things got delayed because of Covid, but we got licensed at the end of May (2020) and a placement 5 days later. My manager knew about everything for about 6 months so we had plenty of time to prepare.

    Fostering is so hard! But you’ll do great. :)

    1. Mary*

      Also. It’s very doable to take a week vacation to get everything situated (daycare, school, doctors appointments…). Then go back to work to plan for your leave. This is what most foster parents I know did, who weren’t able to take advantage of the same company benefit my husband and I have.

    2. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      Thanks so much Mary! The timeline you gave helps a lot too. Since we’re right at the beginning, it’s helpful to know what kinds of timelines we might expect, knowing, of course, that it will vary. We are really excited to get going on this.

  23. SpellingBee*

    #4, did you have any type of interview at all? I’d recommend that you insist on at least a phone or video interview before accepting if they do come up with an offer. The whole “they loved your resume and don’t even need to meet you!” thing just doesn’t sit right with me.

    1. another Hero*

      Yeah, I know lw4 might be desperate, but I would be SUPER hesitant. Do you want to work with other people who have been hired with so little screening? If you don’t at least get a chance to ask the questions YOU would ask in an interview, and you can afford not to take this job, I’d run tbh.

  24. AnonInTheCity*

    #4 happened similarly to me this summer, and it was frustrating but not a scam. I was working with a recruiter for this one-year contract position, heard that they wanted to hire me but needed to get the paperwork in order, gave a verbal acceptance, turned down another offer, and then had WEEKS of “they’re working on it but can’t send anything in writing yet.” Luckily I kept interviewing, got a call from another recruiter, interviewed, and started a better position within the space of a week – and got a call from the original recruiter on the first day of my new job to say the paperwork was ready. (I had let him know that I was removing myself from the process but I guess he just wanted to see if maybe I’d return to the first offer?)

  25. Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?*

    I’ve had 19 surgeries to correct a facial difference, and the school photographer photoshopped all of my scars out and completely reshaped my nose on my formal senior photos when I was 18. I cried in my Lit class when they handed the photos back because it felt so defeating after all I had been through. My parents paid for me to go to a different photographer to re-do the photos that the school agreed to use.

    To this day, it still bothers me that he thought my birth defect and the accompanying scars could easily be erased from a photo – which represents to the world who I am.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I’m so sorry you went through that. I can understand how it would be very upsetting.

      A friend of mine who was recently married (before the pandemic) was adamant with her photographer that the scars on her back should not be photoshopped away. She had severe scoliosis as a child and she talks about how beautiful her scars are because they remind her of her journey. They are a part of who she is and what she had to go through to be healthy and happy. She had the most beautiful backless dress at her wedding!

      I hope stories like yours and hers will help cement the LW’s opinion that the photoshoping is in poor taste…and gives them the courage to push back!

  26. Mbarr*

    #2, it might be worth asking to reduce your 1:1 meetings too – either have it be 30 minutes every 2 weeks, or 1 hour every month. You could claim, “Now that I’ve been here for awhile, I’m comfortable reducing the frequency of our check-ins.” The resulting time crunch, plus the agenda you provide (as per Alison’s suggestion) would help force you both to keep the meetings on track.

  27. Des*

    Include the note about “edits” in the release form you’re having customers sign when you take their photos, so you can use them in your ads. You have one, right?

  28. cubone*

    #2 – oh have I been there. I ended up moving teams because my manager was so negative and if we ever have to connect on a project, she still manages to work in a laundry list of her complaints (often about work and her life). It’s INCREDIBLY draining and frankly I think it’s an egregious abuse of power dynamics.

    Setting agendas and asking up front to cover certain topics was helpful, but the thing that made the biggest difference for me (and that I haven’t seen suggested yet) was basically playing dumb and redirecting everything back to the work.

    So for example, if boss says “god, I’m just so stressed this week because Timmy did his timesheets late again!”, say “oh, so will that delay your approval of [project you’d asked to discuss] and I should adjust the timelines?” The trick is to project a kind of neutral innocence, like of course your boss is ONLY focused on the work and these issues being raised MUST be related to the work, right?? (She’d never just complain about colleagues, gasp!). I even once said “wow that DOES sound stressful….. I think this project will also become very stressful is we can’t meet our deadline of X by Friday” (that one worked shockingly well because my boss was stressed about EVERYTHING, including incredibly minor not important tasks, so basically threatening more stress got her to focus on what I needed).

    It’s not exactly the same, but I was kind of inspired by the “grey rock” technique for dealing with narcissists and abusers, if you’ve ever heard of that.

  29. Amy*

    I wonder what the employer means by 90 days notice.

    Because even when an employee is pregnant, they won’t necessarily be able to pin down a date within even a month’s range. One of my pregnancies came 2 months early (and I’d only told them at almost 6 months pregnant), another had 6 weeks of bed-rest with no warning. I wonder if that’s just what’s in the handbook but in practice, they just want a heads-up that something is in the works.

    1. Aurora Leigh*

      My husband has to give 90 days notice for parental leave at his company. The form asked for the mother’s name, the name of her doctor, and the “anticipated” due date. He turned it when I was about 8 weeks pregnant just to be on the safe side, but I think it’s less about scheduling specific dates and more about preventing fraud (he will get 10 weeks paid leave which he can extend to 12 weeks using sick or vacation time). My company only has unpaid FMLA so they don’t have any specific rules about notice.

    2. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      I suspect it’s to give appropriate time to plan for an extended leave, but because of bureaucracy, this turned into 90 days. I doubt they’re going to be upset if it’s 85 or 99 days, but I don’t want to leave my department in the lurch.

  30. Used to Photoshop People for a Living*

    OP #1…is there a happy medium you can strike here? I used to photoshop people for a living (I worked for an upscale photographer), and while I thought some of what we did was a little bit much, that was part of why they were paying for our services. It was gentle enough that people didn’t realize they’d been “shopped” when they looked at the photos. I’m referring to things like — brightening teeth (not unnaturally), taming fly away hairs, smoothing wrinkles (notice I said smoothing, not entirely removing), softening crows feet, slightly slimming faces or arms, etc. At the time I felt like I was doing plastic surgery on people with a mouse, and I would walk around and immediately scan people’s faces and bodies out of habit for things to “fix.” But I ddin’t completely change a person’s body shape, or face shape, or limbs — I just gave them a bit of light retouching because the camera adds 10 pounds as they say. One thing they said in the trade is that people never really believe what they look like on camera — which I have found to be true. We all have a picture of ourselves in our heads that we think is “us” and might not realize how the camera picks up the extra few pounds, or we pick at the one “flaw” that jumps out at us. I’ve heard other photographers refer to their level of photoshopping as making people look like they would “on their best day,” so not altering the photo so that the person is unrecognizable, but just giving them a little help that they might have had if they had combed their hair, or done their makeup, held their arm a little more taught (you’d be amazed at how many “pounds” you can instantly shed just by learning to pose correctly, so I’d often correct for bad posing, where the angle makes you look like you gained 20 pounds) etc. So I’d try to reframe it a little bit if you can, if your boss is going to require you to do it, in that light. And see if you can get away with being less heavy-handed but still removing any “distracting” bits from the photo. The balance to strike is that it should be under-photoshopped enough that it doesn’t scream “photoshop” when you see the photo, but photoshopped enough that your eyes aren’t distracted by little details that could be quickly fixed and detract from the message of the ad. It’s a tricky balance to get right, but you might be able to persuade your boss by doing a “before and after” in photoshop, turning layers on and off, with a more natural, light hand, to show how much you really have done. And then leave it up to him, because unless you have another job lined up, it’s probably not worth your job to fight him on this. But I do understand your feeling, because I experienced that as well.

  31. CostAlltheThings*

    #5, we fostered a few years ago and at the time I did have some flexibility with my job as a worked almost independently and out of my home w/visits to clients as a I planned. The best thing we had was that my SIL was in college and could be even more flexible than me and cover that day or two between placement and daycare starting. We were only open then to kids that were daycare age and we had 2-3 daycares that we would immediately call for openings as soon as we got the call. We never took leave because we wanted to save it in case there were adjustment issues or we had a kiddo that couldn’t go to daycare right away for some reason. The best advice I have is don’t be afraid to ask for help. Figure out who you can trust and get them certified if needed in your state and build your village. Sometimes it just means that you have someone that can come play with the 1 and 2 year old sibling set while you cook dinner straight thru for the first time all week. If you have people in your life that are willing to change diapers and play on the floor, love them and use them!

  32. Been There*

    Maybe I am in the wrong but I don’t see the harm with doing what the manager asks for letter #1. I know I wouldn’t mind it myself as long as it looks realistic. Speaking from personal experience, I know how easy it is to over-whiten teeth in photoshop to the point one would be reminded of that episode of Friends were Ross had his teeth whitened and kept the stuff on too long.

    When LinkedIn first came out, I had a professional portrait taken and I photoshopped myself. It was pretty realistic (blemishes removed, whitened teeth, reduction (or elimination) of lines, made my eyes a little bluer to coordinate with my shirt), but… when I had my most recent picture taken and compared the two, I was thinking, crap I have AGED, then I found the original unretouched picture and remembered all the liberties I had taken.

    I would imagine most customers won’t care. I know when I used to photograph customers for my job’s social media, most people are pretty vain and many times pictures had to be retaken or I was given Mariah Carey levels of instruction on a specific angle I was allowed to shoot from.

    1. cubone*

      I think the distinction is that those customers asked you to retake or instructed you on angles. These folks haven’t. Editing out stuff like wrinkles also isn’t like, a neutral choice – what’s wrong with wrinkles? People are human, they age, and they have wrinkles. How is editing them out (without a request to do so) not also making a judgement call that wrinkles aren’t preferable and should ideally be removed/minimized etc? Not all of us feel that way. If someone edited out a wrinkle on a picture of my face without asking me, I would be pissed as heck. I don’t have an issue with it, so doing so is telling me that they have an issue with it or think I look better without wrinkles. That would be pretty hurtful.

      Whitening teeth might be more of a debate, but like…. people know what they look like, lol. It’s just odd to make judgement calls on this, above and beyond standard photo editing (like fixing lighting). This person is being instructed to THIN OUT THEIR NECKS. That’s horrifying! The idea that everyone secretly desires to be thin and would love some digital help to get there is disgusting, and it’s not true. I am not okay with pictures of me that pretend I haven’t aged. I am not okay with pictures of me that pretend I’m not fat.

      1. Been There*

        I guess it all depends on how drastic the changes are, to which I really wish we had before and after examples. Because if it’s done right, I don’t think people would necessarily notice. Of course, if it is done wrong, then it’s a disaster. I mean when I had my most recent set of professional headshots taken, I didn’t go looking for my wrinkles, or my double-chin. I just thought, “wow, that’s a great photo of me”. I mean if I zoomed in on the pic, I could see the tell-tale marks of photoshop around my eyes and and the crease on my chin, but since this was going on LinkedIn, I wanted those gone. I mean it sucks, but judgements are based on appearances, so the majority probably wouldn’t care, or even prefer that the work was done (and want a copy for themselves). But I’m also vain AF and use gray reducing shampoo, as well as an assortment of Brickell products to minimize all of the stuff that I would want to be photoshopped in the first place.

        1. Jennifer*

          I agree. It’s not a scam. I’d imagine most ads we see use the kind of photoshopping mentioned here.

    2. Observer*

      You wouldn’t mind, but this is FAR from universal. Especially when it gets to things like removing wrinkles, which can read as ageist, or slimming people down, which reads as fat phobic or adjacent.

      You have 100% standing to make whatever changes you want, as long as you are not scamming someone in the process. Making that decision for someone else? Nope.

  33. dawbs*

    #1 This isn’t quite the question you asked, but, you probably want to have a plan for the point where your boss directs really ableist stuff into the photo-shop discussion.
    Several posters have mentioned things they were upset to see photo-shopped and I’ll say the likelihood is high for there to be ire you’d (possibly deservedly) get for erasing, say, a cane or the bulge for an insulin pump or a difference in an arm, to make them more in-line with conventional beauty standards.

    1. Been There*

      I didn’t think about that. You’re right. If I was in a wheelchair and they photographed me in the chair and the end result was of me appearing to sit behind a table with the chair totally cropped out, I’d have a WTF moment and wonder what the mindset was of the brand I was working with.

    2. cubone*

      Oh god, yes thank you. I know a second hand story of a friend’s boss who was fired because he asked for some of the white students in campus brochures to be edited to be non-white…….. and the editor DID IT.

  34. Delta Delta*

    #5 – As an attorney who does a lot of work with kids in foster care and the juvenile court system, I encourage OP5 to talk very seriously with the local child protective services agency about expectations. It’s not at all uncommon to get a call at a weird hour saying, “we have a kid, be ready in an hour” and then you have to be ready. (some friends of mine ended up with a child coming to their home this way; ultimately they adopted her so that worked out, but it was a weird way that it happened) And, depending on how your state’s system is structured, many responsibilities for the child fall to the foster parent. Sometimes those responsibilities include transportation all over the place, supervision of visits with the birth parent(s), appointments, various team meetings, court hearings, etc. It can be hard for foster parents to work full time while fostering. I’ve even had one seriously out of touch social worker tell me that a child being placed in a foster home with a foster care giver is preferable to a birth parent if the birth parent has to have a job to survive. (you think I’m making this up. I am not making this up. This same social worker often encouraged parents to quit their jobs and “go on the dole” so they could do ridiculous numbers of classes, trainings, meetings, etc. to meet the system’s unreasonable expectations). I’m really not trying to be discouraging, because good foster parents are really important to have and in a lot of places are in short supply. Just make sure you’re going into it with all the information so that you can provide all that information to your employer with your time off requests.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      …does this social worker think only independently wealthy people, or people with stay-at-home spouses, can or should have children? Or that the US social safety net actually pays enough money for long enough that a single parent won’t ever need to work?

    2. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      Thanks for your perspective – and that social worker sounds horrid. I live in a fairly socially conservative state where the first question to women is often “do you work,” so I can totally see how a person could make those awful comments.

      That said, I can definitely do what I can to make a plan to be flexible with work and seek out childcare/support from others knowing that my working fulltime is the way it’s going to be. I know the agency we’re going through does have single foster parents, so some people have figured out how to do this without being independently wealthy.

  35. jcarnall*

    LW1: Using photos of customers in marketing material without the customers signing a release form may be in fact illegal, and Alison has useful scripts for how to tell your manager “maybe we don’t want to do this because we could get in legal trouble for this”. If your manager is already handwaving off any trouble as “I’ll take full responsibility” that suggests either she isn’t aware the company could get into legal trouble, or that she thinks customers of the company are unlikely to make trouble for snapshots taken on company property then used in marketing for the company.

    However, it is still good practice to ask customers to sign a release form because of the occasional circumstances where a customer may actively not want their photo made use of in material outside of their control – for example, someone trying to stay out of sight of an abusive ex-partner. The time to find out a customer doesn’t want to be photographed and have their photo published is before the photo is taken, not after the photo has been printed and distributed. While the customer may not have a legal standing to object to photos that were taken on company property being used by the company, surely customer goodwill is worth something?

    The issue of photoshopping that the customer didn’t ask for and may find unwelcome is almost secondary, except that it adds weight to the point that this isn’t simply a photographer taking a snapshot on company property and the company making use of the snapshot – the company is deliberately taking these photos and processing them with a view to publication in marketing materials, and not telling the customer in advance.

  36. Nicole*

    Without knowing the industry it’s hard to say for sure but if I were a customer of OP1’s, gave them permission to post my photo, and then found that they edited it to make me more attractive, I don’t think I’d be a customer anymore. That’s just telling me that I’m too ugly to be their customer, so I’d do them a favor by taking my business elsewhere.

  37. Liz*

    OP #5 – I told my immediate supervisor and my manager (different people) when we started the foster parent approval process. They were both very supportive from the beginning. When we got closer and were approved, I let them know and reminded them we may not get much notice. I did get a couple of calls during the work day. They said “Good luck, keep us posted” and that was it. I did try to work remotely as much as I could (we took babies) and it was never a problem.

    Really it all depends on your supervisor. I know others here in this same company would not have been as understanding.

    1. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      Thanks! My work was open to remote before the pandemic and now we’re all remote most of the time, so that helps. We’ve been supportive and flexible of other parents in the department, so I’m hopeful it will work out for me too.

  38. Foster Parent in Academia*

    #5 – I was a foster parent, now an adoptive parent, also work in academia as staff. My university offers one month of fully paid parental leave, it must be taken within one year of placement OR adoption (not both.) In August, I took my first placement, a newborn baby. I flexed my parental leave (not technically allowed – it must be taken in one week increments, but my boss would rather I was around sometimes than not at all and it was the start of the academic year) and worked part time for about 3 weeks. Saved 2 weeks of leave to take later. This worked for me because my partner was a stay at home spouse, now stay at home parent.

    That same year, we took a second placement of a Baby 2 (a one year old) in December. I had the holiday leave so I didn’t use any parental leave then. I took the remaining two weeks of leave from placement #1 at some point that year. I didn’t take any leave for Baby 2. We adopted Baby 2 the following February (14 months later) and that reset my leave clock – I had one year to take 4 weeks of leave for Baby 2. And I took it intermittently – I used it to take babies to visit family, baptism out of town, for the adoption of Baby 1 (which took longer) and general family bonding.

    I was lucky I didn’t NEED the leave to care for the children so I was able to be flexible about the whole thing. It took us a while to get the kids into a day care program but we didn’t push it as hard as we could have – a single foster mom friend of mine pushed for the daycare vouchers and had her 2 girls in daycare in about a week. We opted for early head start which has defined intake times.

    I reluctantly told my boss at the beginning of the licensing process because we go to the same church. He wouldn’t have been malicious about it but I think he would have been confused to overhear others talking about us fostering when I hadn’t mentioned it to him, especially because people not involved with the system have no understanding of the process or timelines. I told my team when the homestudy was finished and licensing seemed imminent. We actually got the call for the first placement before the license was done (which they didn’t tell us until we were on our way to the hospital to visit the baby.)

    My advice is be as transparent as possible and be patient with people not understanding anything. Also look at your local fostering parent facebook page and see if you can find others who work for your employer (if its a large entity.) In our case, the licensing worker connected us directly with other foster parents at my university and I have since volunteered to be connected by her to new parents.

    Good luck with everything!

    1. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      Ooh, that’s a super good idea – my university is really large and so I’d be shocked if no one there had ever fostered before. I really appreciate your story – it helps so much!

  39. Walter Peck*

    Re: letter 5, I’m a single foster parent. The fact that FMLA covers foster/adoptive placements has been covered by other commenters, so I won’t repeat that info. I sat down with my HR and talked through the application process early on, so I would know exactly what to do when I received a placement. I was fortunate to have a supportive boss and HR team, it’s frustrating to hear that some HR teams would deny FMLA due to a lack of notice.

    As for how much leave to take, it depends on the age of the child you’re expecting, and how many. If you’re taking an infant or a sibling set of younger children, you might want to consider planning for a month or more to allow for bonding and setting up a routine, as well as arranging for approved child care. I generally take older kids, school age or teens, and in our state kiddos are required to enroll in school within 3 days and have a doctor and dentist appointment within the first week. I usually take a week off to get them settled, and then take a few days here or there for the inevitable appointments, therapy, etc. I also will take days off that align with school breaks to plan fun bonding activities—I consider those not optional and plan for them just like they are appointments. Also, if your kiddo has multiple medical needs, you may want to take off a shorter initial time period to allow for future doctor appointments or quarantines if child care/school have a disease outbreak that would be hard on an immune-compromised child (this would be an issue without covid, although it’s even more of a factor now). Also, keep in mind that pretty much EVERYTHING takes twice as long as you expect for kids in care: that goes for requesting records, arranging IEP visits, and obtaining transportation for primary family visits. Good luck!

    1. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      Thanks for sharing your experience! This is really helpful. I really like your point about making those bonding times non-optional. It’s lovely.

  40. legal rugby*

    #5 – my wife and foster, and its alot. We’ve said before that if we weren’t salaried, we weren’t sure we would be able to handle it. We’ve had five placements; the first four we’ve had less than 24 hours notice they were coming. Our first one was a newborn straight from the hospital. We were lucky – pre-covid, our employer let us bring him to work with us for the two weeks he was with us. Our current baby (we have a 2 year old and his three month old brother right now) we knew was coming from the time mom announced the pregnancy, and he’s the only one we’ve had things in place for.

    First, find a child care in your area that is willing to work with you. There is a foster care subsidy for childcare, but it takes some time to kick in. We’ve had to pay out of pocket for 3-5 weeks for each kid. We are lucky that we found a place that will move things around to open slots for us because they understand what short notice foster care is like. When the two year old came to us at 14 months, most places told us we would have a 4-6 week wait for a slot. Our bosses were willing to flex us to work from home, and we looked at taking FMLA – we havent needed to yet, but remember – salaried.

    Second, be aware of how much time we are talking about. We have to take ours to the doctor every 90 days even if they dont need to go. We have to go to the dentist every 6 months, even at 2. We have to provide transportation for weekly visits – ours are younger so they prefer to do them during the day, to save the evening slots for school age kids. My wife is 15 mins late on visit days (IF parents show up on time – we’ve had to stay for an hour one time because mom didn’t show and they didn’t want us to leave,) and I have to dip out for 45 mins or so to pick up, take them to daycare, and drive back. We have court within 3 days of receiving a kid, and again 30 days later; every 90 days we have to take a morning/ afternoon off, and bring them to court. In addition to court, we’ve had family meetings every 60 days – they tell us we don’t have to be there, but its our best chance to figure out what is happening. So – you need to be flexible, and both parents need to share this burden. Our bosses have been great and decided that we don’t have to take time for these because we both engage so much in our nights and weekends programming, but your boss/HR may have other ideas.

    Third, figure out how you are going to talk about it to folks around you. We have a couple people that we’ve shared details with, but we usually try to limit who at work we share our venting/ their trauma history with. How do you talk about them at work? I call our current fosters our kids, but the oldest has been with us for over a year; hes also special because the circumstances that brought him into care received national attention, so a LOT of my coworkers know what trauma he experienced without us sharing. We’ve found a lot of people dnt really understand foster care and make a lot of assumptions; its really frustrating to my wife when people tell us they could never do what we do, and it always annoys me when folks who dont know the whole story talk shit about my kids bio mom. (This is a work blog, but its also important to consider

    Fourth, be clear with your boss, if you can share details, about how unclear the information you get is. Be clear when you are contingency planning. Our first one came to us on an hours notice, and they said he would be there for 6 months – 12 days later, they told us he was leaving in 2. Our second newborn, they told us it would be 2-3 weeks, and he would be going to a kinship home, but he ended up going home to mom after two months. Also, frequently the details we get are unclear -we’ve gotten wrong names, ages, genders. We’ve had a kid come and only realized he was born addicted when they handed us the meds he was on, and had to turn down kids because their medical/emotional needs were bigger than we could handle.

    Finally, make sure YOU have a support system, so stress or emotions don’t spill over at work. Get a therapist, and when the kids do home, even if you are happy and it is a good reunification, take a day. It can be insanely hard to work when you are missing a kid that you parented. (Also, find a online forum for parents in your state on facebook or reddit, as they can help navigate your specific state system.)

    Despite all this – I love being a foster parent, and I’m really happy my little dudes get to hang out with us while their mom is working on her stuff. If you have questions, I’m happy to connect with you!

    1. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      This is excellent, thank you! I’m salaried, fortunately, and can see how that kind of a schedule would be hard. Work-wise, I think I could swing it, but that’s only one dimension of it. I appreciate your whole perspective, too. Thanks so much!

  41. Jay*

    #OP1 – Are you having these clients sign a release? If not, you should be – you can look up templates but basically they should be signing something that says they are giving you permission to use their photo in marketing pieces or wherever you see fit. I would then include a clause “photos may involve slight editing to improve overall quality for print” Here is a good example:

    It lists usage (which you can alter to include what your usage is) and then just a quick statement of creative permission to alter the photo.

    This covers you from a variety of areas and then also alleviates your concern about minor alterations.

  42. epmloyment lawyah*

    1. My company wants me to Photoshop our customers
    This is an interesting one: Do the customers look good? Do they know they’re in an ad? Do you take the pictures (or select from the group) with an eye towards their appearance, or only the appearance of your boss? Do they WANT to be Photoshopped?

    It’s possible that everyone would agree. Lots of people dislike “bad photos” of themselves. I would simply ask.

    5. Planning for parental leave with the uncertainty of foster parenting
    First: You may have legal rights which may depend on your state. For example, Massachusetts (no surprise) has pretty good laws; your state may not. Start there; if you have rights as a foster parent, your employer probably CANNOT “override” them by requiring more notice, less leave, etc.

    Next: If you are 100% confident that you will not suffer ANY discrimination (which can be a big deal w/ future assignments, promotions, etc.) then you CAN (not “should!”) opt to tell your employer a heads up.

    Personally I’d wait until, at the least, you were *approved* for a placement. “I’m trying for approval to get a placement” requires no notice, just like “I’m trying to get pregnant.” It isn’t their business.

    1. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      Yeah I had that thought too – at what point in foster parenting is it like “we’re trying to get pregnant” and it seems to come down to the timeline. If we can get a placement really soon after being licensed, we’d have to move the timeline up sooner. I’ll look into my state’s laws – I doubt they’re as good as Mass. :)

  43. *daha**

    #1 We’re talking about an employee performing works for hire at the direct instruction of the employer. Wouldn’t simply deciding to not perform tasks as instructed be insubordination and cause for dismissal? This doesn’t seem like good advice.

    1. Observer*

      In the US an employer could dismiss the OP for any and all reasons, as long as the reason is not illegal discrimination or retaliation for legally protected activity.

      In terms of getting unemployment benefits, it’s possible that this skirts the edge of illegality / ethics enough that a person fired over this would be eligible.

      In any case, Alison did ask IF it is possible. She didn’t say “don’t do and your boss can’t do anything about it.”

  44. Observer*

    #1 – Please make sure to put your concerns in writing – and make sure that you CC your grandboss.

    The reality is that this could easily blow up on you, and you want it to be clear that you tried to bring it up.

  45. MissDisplaced*

    1. My company wants me to Photoshop our customers
    You should always take a release form for anyone in a business photo or video to sign! If you are not doing this currently, start doing it ASAP. This grants your company permission to use their image as an endorsement for your company and you should have signed permission for that. Within the body of the release you can have some language about minor retouching and color correcting for aesthetic purposes. Look online, you should be able to find a base form you can adapt. These are very common photography forms.

    As to what is acceptable? Generally, touching up small things that don’t otherwise alter their appearance so much as for them to be unrecognizable. So, there is some leeway to color correct, fix red eye, flyaway hair, whiten teeth a little, fix a missing tooth or remove a band-aid, or maybe lighten or blur slightly to soften imperfections (think transitory pimples, dark circles or weird lighting shadows).

    But unless it’s a glamor/model shot, you should not alter age (de-ageing or ageing), body shape, hair color or clothes unless you ask permission to do so first and there should there be a valid reason to do so.
    If in doubt, ask the person what they find acceptable. In my missing tooth and band-aid on the knee instance, I did call them first to ask if they wanted it fixed and they said of course. But not everyone does.

    1. WFH with Cat*


      I especially want to highlight the need for signed releases! (Companies even need these from employess, which is why they are often included in hiring/personnel documentation that new hires sign during on-boarding.)

      I will add that the release form ought to cover photography, videography, and audio recordings.

      As for all the rest, MissDisplaced has covered it beautifully.

  46. Karate Saw*

    Re: letter #4: the idea of accepting a job without participating in a formal interview just blows my mind. I’ve honestly never heard of such a thing outside of “offer only” performers. Even if they had turned around a signed contract in three days I’d be immensely skeptical. To my mind interviews are MY chance to see what I think about the job, it feels sketchy to me not to offer that opportunity.

  47. WegMeck*

    OP #2: To add on to Alison’s suggestion that focusing in on an agenda might solve some of your problems, a strategy I’ve found REALLY helpful for keeping 1:1’s productive (with a variety of managers) is to keep a shared, running 1:1 agenda or document. My company uses the google suite, so having a mutually-editable document is really easy – but I’m sure your workplace has something comparable.

    The format of the document is really simple (I set mine up as a googlesheet with two columns: Topic; Next Steps; I have a colleague who just keeps a running googledoc with dates) and I use it as my running to-do list for everything that comes up throughout the week which I flag as “I need to talk to ask manager about that” or “I should make sure my manager knows about that.” Having the document be a shared googledoc that both of us can edit means that my manager can ALSO add in things she’d like to make sure she flags for me. This method works really well for a few reasons:
    1. It helps keep us organized, to make sure that we don’t forget to talk about things on our 1:1’s (and helps us see how many things we’re trying to accomplish in a given meeting, so we can easily decide if there are some things that we’ll need to pull out into their own sessions). I also put things like “check on feedback about X project” on the to-do list, to flag for my manager that I’m hoping she can dig in and give me more feedback.
    2. Helps us pull focus in – if EITHER of us are wandering into vent-territory, having even an informal agenda like this is really, really helpful for getting back on track.
    2. Helps us answer questions like “is it okay if we cancel this week?” when schedules get busy or we don’t have a lot to cover (I saw some other commenters suggesting you cut down on the length and frequency of your 1:1s – making it explicit to your manager that you don’t have anything to cover on these meetings can really help with those conversations).

    Lastly – the best managers I’ve ever worked for have asked me to schedule SEPARATE (typically quarterly) “Career Check-Ins,” independent of our typical 1:1 meetings. These are meetings the entire goal of which is to focus on the employee’s performance, growth, goals, etc. Putting some structure around these conversations can really help pull up out of the details (ex: this project is going fine; you’re hitting your daily/weekly/monthly goals; we’re trying to resolve a specific blocker on project X) and focus on some of the more specific coaching and high-level feedback you’re asking for.

  48. Sara J*

    To the OP in question 5, congratulations! Having adopted from foster care I know the road was a bumpy, but ultimately rewarding one.

    To address your questions…it depends. What kind of fostering do you plan on doing? Long term placements, emergency placements, short term? As well as the age of the children themselves, infants? Toddlers? School age? Teenage?

    Infants are going to need you home for a while after placement, whereas toddlers and school age children may already be involved in school or daycare where they will spend most of the day anyway (maintaining familiar routines will be important to help ease transitions). Long term placements or fostering to adopt will allow you to set up childcare arrangements where short term placements may be there as little as a few hours to a few weeks, so wouldn’t have that opportunity.

    Something additional to think about is flexibility. At least in my state once a child is placed in your home you have 30 days to have them seen by a pediatrician, dentist, have their eyes and hearing examined, get them registered for your local school, and meet with their therapists & social workers. This, in my experience can take roughly a day to day and a half per week in the 1st four to five weeks. So, if you’re company is flexible enough to let you do that you’re good, if not you may want that time off so you don’t feel stressed about it.

    My kids were school aged and happened to come right at the beginning of Spring Break. I took that week off figuring I’d use it to get us settled and start bonding. What actually happened was we were incredibly bored. We had to be available for SW visits so we couldn’t go anywhere. We didn’t have any routines established so everything felt tense & awkward. It didn’t ease until they went back to school & I went back to work. What I wish I’d done was go ahead and put them in the Spring Break camp at their school and continued to work. They would have gotten to see familiar faces and we could have eased more slowly. You’ll have to decide what is right for you in your situation.

    My final thought is…what would happen if someone didn’t know they were pregnant until they were in labor? Rare, but it happens. Or someone gave them 90 day notice based on a full term pregnancy then prematurely delivered in the 7th month? They should treat you with the same consideration as they would those mothers. Now, they may be stickler a**holes in those situations, but at least then you know what you’re up against.

    1. LW #5 (foster parent)*

      Thanks, this is super helpful! It seems like a ton depends but I’m learning so much from folks’ experiences and I really appreciate it.

  49. lp*

    I’m a photo-retoucher, have been for 15+ years. The standards for “real people” are very very different than stills for the beauty industry. The subject shouldn’t be able to tell. It should never look airbrushed or too soft, like a mall glamour shot. There’s a lot that’s potentially distracting, from nose hairs to rosacea to eyebrow dandruff to pet hair to wardrobe malfunctions (poorly fitting undergarments creating extra lumps) that feels like a kindness to take care of. The only time I ever had a job I felt icky about was a job for NY fashion week when I was hired to make several shockingly skeletal models look healthier.

    Since the advent of digital photography and the wide availability of decent cameras, people are less and less willing to pay photographers to take the time to get a great shot in camera (which might include more flattering lighting). Hence more things are getting fixed in post.

  50. OyHiOh*

    Op 1, this is something I know a little bit about because I’m an artist by night and an ocassional photo model.

    The short answer is “know your state,” because the laws are slightly different in every state. The longer version is that for most commercial purposes, your subjects need to sign a release form, agreeing to use for marketing purposes. If we want to get persinkety, your Boss’s Boss should sign a new form himself every 12 months.
    It’s protection against that one person who sees themselves and for some reason comes back claiming they didn’t give you permission to print/use on social media/touch up/etc .

    While there is quite a bit of variance from state to state, the rules are generally more grey for visual artists like me than they are for my photographer friends.

  51. dedicated1776*

    Letter 1 made me think of similar experiences I’ve had with professional headshots. I am pretty average looking and twice now photographers have either tried or succeeded in airbrushing me so much I didn’t look real. Yes, I know I have some lines in my neck. Yes, I have a large beauty mark on my cheek (which is actually one of my favorite things about myself but apparently photographers hate it?). Yep, my face is a little red. I was a little offended the one time my picture was altered to that extent without my permission and I can absolutely understand if LW 1’s customers were, too.

  52. Silverose*

    For #5: As a former CPS worker, that placement call could be middle of the night “can we drop a child off in half an hour?” As others have said, check whether foster placements qualify for parental leave with your company, and have an attorney on speed dial if you want to use FMLA and get push back from your employer. Reality is, most foster parents don’t use leave time because so many placements are short-term and change so frequently. If anything, set up for intermittent FMLA so you can attend medical and court appointments, and don’t worry too much about more time than that.

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