August 5, 2019 For Children’s Long-Term Success, Families Need Paid Leave When a family introduces a new child into their life, the last thing they should have to worry about is if they have the time and money to properly care for and bond with their child. However, families across the Commonwealth are in that exact situation, with many caregivers involuntarily reducing their work hours, changing jobs, or leaving the workforce entirely. Early Interactions Matter While many may associate childhood learning with the education system, learning and development begin much earlier than a child’s first classroom experience. Parents and caregivers are children’s first teachers, and to support the long-term success of the next generation, we need to ensure that all caregivers are afforded the opportunity to care for and bond with their children. In Pennsylvania, there are more than 870,000 children under the age of six. Of those children, 41 percent live in low-income households. While about 51 percent of children birth to age five are in non-parental care for at least 10 hours per week, accessing such services can be difficult and expensive. Due to high costs, limited seats, and child care deserts, families across the Commonwealth are left without access to the affordable, high-quality child care services they need. The difficulties don’t stop there. Without child care access, families have limited options. They can rotate their child through a list of available family members and friends; reduce or shift their work hours; change their profession; or leave the workforce entirely. More often than not, these challenges disproportionately affect women who make up 94 percent of workers that involuntarily work part-time due to child care problems. While these options exist, all of them can lead to negative outcomes, including financial insecurity, inconsistent caregiving, increased family stress, and difficulties reentering the workforce. Research shows that positive interactions with consistent adult caregivers are important during children’s early development, as they optimize the development of brain pathways for the visual and auditory senses, motor and language processing, higher cognitive functioning, and emotional regulation. This challenge is more than just having someone around to look after a child. It’s about establishing the conditions children need to experience success later in life. Current Policy In the current family leave system, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year. FMLA was designed to help employees balance their work and family responsibilities, providing this benefit to employees at public agencies, public and private elementary and secondary schools, and companies with 50 or more employees. However, just because unpaid leave is available does not mean that it is accessible. In January 2019, the National Partnership for Women and Families reported out that unpaid leave under the FMLA is inaccessible for 59 percent of working people. The Family Care Act If Pennsylvania passes the Family Care Act, families will no longer have to choose between remaining financially stable in the workforce and caring for their young child in the most critical period of their life. The Family Care Act establishes a statewide insurance fund, similar to Pennsylvania’s unemployment compensation fund, which allows individuals to draw down a portion of their salary for: Up to 12 weeks to care for a family member with a serious health condition Up to 12 weeks to care for a covered service member as covered under FMLA Up to 20 weeks to care for their own serious health condition Up to 20 weeks to care for a new child after a birth, adoption, or placement through foster care In Pennsylvania, families should come first. To ensure caregivers’ financial security, healthy relationship development, and workplace success, we need to make sure that they have access to the paid leave they need to care for their family. For the long-term personal, academic, and professional success of our youngest generation, we need to pass the Family Care Act. Take Action Paid family leave is not only a family value, it’s also a Pennsylvania value–and that’s a fact. Use your voice to advocate for families by encouraging the state government to pass the Family Care Act. Visit the campaign page to learn more. To stay up-to-date on advocacy opportunities, sign up for Trying Together’s Public Policy newsletter or visit our Take Action page.