NPO publishes blog articles to inform and to stimulate conversation about issues of importance to NPO's mission.  All blog articles express the opinions of the authors as individuals and do not necessarily reflect the views of National Parents Organization, its Board of Directors, or its executives.  

May 28, 2015
And here’s NPO of Virginia’s excellent piece on parental leave published in the Hampton Roads Pilot. Good work, Kristen!

Leadbeater: Virginia has a chance to lead on parental leave

President Barack Obama recently issued a presidential memorandum focused on modernizing federal leave policies for childbirth, adoption and foster care to recruit and retain talent and improve productivity. Virginia, led by a Democratic governor in a state just steps away from our nation’s capital, needs to lead the way on this initiative.

Obama outlined a new plan to help more states create paid-leave programs. Three states — California, New Jersey and Rhode Island — have taken the lead by launching programs offering paid family and medical leave, and Obama believes that more can be done to promote action from the states.

To recruit and retain the best possible workforce for the federal government, the president also is proposing legislation similar to the Federal Employees Paid Parental Leave Act. The legislation would provide federal employees with six weeks of paid administrative leave for the birth, adoption or foster placement of a child.

Parental leave includes both paternity and maternity leave, and it is up to both parents to decide what amount of parental leave makes sense for them. Recently, paternity leave has entered the corporate and cultural mainstream. It is time for the same to enter the mainstream in Virginia.

According to “The New Dad: a work (and life) in progress” by the Boston College Center for Work and Family, which surveyed men in a number of Fortune 500 companies, most new fathers now take at least some time off after the birth of a baby, though few are out of the workplace for more than two weeks. In England, Prince William took two weeks of leave from his job as a military search-and-rescue helicopter pilot when his son, George, was born. Major League Baseball has formalized paternity leave — just three days’ worth — for players, partnering with Dove’s line for men in a pro-fatherhood campaign called Big League Dads. So why is Virginia behind the times on this simple fix?

Statistics consistently show that when it comes to paid parental leave, the United States is among the least generous in the world. For instance, a recent Pew Research Center study outlined this harsh reality in a report showing that the U.S. ranked last out of 38 states on parental leave. Stories of parents taking maternity and paternity leave are garnering more attention and support, because taking parental leave is increasingly shown to improve the health and development outcomes of an infant.

Parental leave is a parental issue — not just a mother or a father issue. It is time to apply gender equality to the arena of parental leave. Any parental leave law must be meticulously gender-neutral. Both parents create a child, and a child needs both parents, particularly early in life. Simply, both parents need time in which their new child can form the vital attachments to them that promote the good emotional health and sense of stability that every child requires. Allowing those attachments to form strengthens the child’s sense of connection to two of the most important people in the child’s life.

Let’s work together to promote and encourage parental leave in Virginia and tell others about it.

Kristen Leadbeater is a member of National Parents Organization of Virginia.

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