Opening Their World to Open Adoption – With an Assist from Viacom

by Stuart Winchester, Viacom
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​​Nine years ago, George Pantelidis and his wife Larissa decided to restart their life. The native New Yorkers packed it in and headed west, landing in Santa Clarita, just north of Los Angeles, where the weather was nice and they could have a little more space. George had been stationed in the area when he served in the Marine Corp, and the couple thought it may be a great place to start a family.

Family is what they really hoped for. Part of what had driven them west was a string of unsuccessful attempts to create just that. Natural conception had not worked. IVF had failed. There had been miscarriages. It was time for a change.

They settled in. Larissa went to work for Wells Fargo. George wound up at Viacom, ingesting transcode for the digital media department.

In 2009, having exhausted all options to conceive a child, the couple drove south to Long Beach to attend an adoption symposium. It was there that they learned about something called open adoption, in which a pregnant mother selects the couple who will adopt their child at birth. At the adoptive parents’ discretion, the child could maintain contact with their biological mother. The moment they learned of it, the couple determined that open adoption suited their sensibilities perfectly.

Somewhere along the way, between contacting the agency and filling out paperwork and preparing for home studies and taking care of background checks, the couple learned of an outstanding benefit from Viacom: up to $10,000 in adoption assistance.

“That was an absolute blessing,” said George. “I’ve always said that Viacom helped me build my family, and it’s true. Viacom helped us build our story and I’ll always be thankful for that.”

By late 2009, the Pantelidises had connected with what would turn out to be their son’s birth mother. They met her over lunch, getting a sense for each other, discussing everyday things like basketball. On March 1, 2010, the couple stood in a Los Angeles delivery room and watched their son Gavin emerge into the world. Larissa was the first to hold him. George cut the umbilical cord.

Today Gavin is an inquisitive five-year-old who loves playing soccer, dancing and tapping on his iPad. His birth mother, who lives nearby in Los Angeles, sees the boy regularly – George and Larissa are very open about where he came from. Gavin has inherited his father’s love for the New York Mets and will serenade anyone wearing the team’s ballcap with a chant of “Let’s go Mets!” On the weekends, the family goes out for hikes, scouring the local countryside for ants or other adventures, their dog in tow.

“Adoption made me a dad,” said George. “That’s all I really care about. When this whole process started, all I wanted was to be a dad and all my wife wanted was to be a mother. Whether the child looked like us or had our genes didn’t matter.”

So powerful was the experience that the family decided to repeat it, starting the process for their second adoption at the end of 2013. Again Viacom chipped in with the same adoption assistance stipend. On July 6, 2014, the family traveled to Houston to bring their second child, Roman, home from the hospital.

At just over a year old, the boy is already showing signs of being an overachiever: he was crawling at five and a half months, walking at nine, teething at three. He plays with his brother every day.

Each time the couple adopted, they connected with their local Viacom HR team, who helped facilitate the reimbursement process. ​

“This adoption assistance program is a great thing,” said George. “We love telling our story and encouraging others to take advantage of this great benefit. Where else am I going to go where they’re going to give me $10,000 extra? They really do care about their employees. We are so thankful to Viacom.”

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