Many of the family-related benefits for federal employees, including health-care coverage and authority to use leave time, apply to employees with adopted or foster children as well as with biological children, according to a new benefits guide.

The guide, issued by the Office of Personnel Management, does not create new benefits but instead pulls together existing policies and explains that, generally, they extend to adopted and foster children, although with differences in some cases.

The guide notes, for example, that employees may take unpaid parental leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act for adoption or for placement of a foster care child with the employee, as well as for childbirth. Unpaid leave also is available without distinction to care for a child with a serious health condition, as is paid sick leave under certain circumstances, the guidance says.

Employees additionally may use sick leave for purposes related to the adoption of a child, such as appointments with adoption agencies, court proceedings, necessary travel and other purposes. That entitlement does not apply to placement of a foster child with the employee, but employees may use annual leave for purposes related to either adoption or foster care placement.

Adopted children qualify for family coverage in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program; foster children also qualify if certain additional standards are met, including that the child is living with the employee at the time, and that the employee is the primary source of financial support for the child.

Adopted and foster care children further qualify under a program allowing agencies to subsidize child-care costs for lower-income employees, as well as a program allowing employees to pay such costs from pre-tax dollars through a flexible spending account.

The guide also addresses other family-friendly policies such as alternative work schedules.