Figure 1: Screenshot of resource webpage at nccp.org/njfamilyleave
Expecting and new parents in New Jersey have two new digital resources to inform their decisions
about taking leave from work. The National Center for Children in Poverty
(NCCP), in collaboration with The Baby Box
Company and the Center for Women
and Work at Rutgers University, recently launched an informational website on
paid and unpaid leave in New Jersey. Accessible via http://www.nccp.org/njfamilyleave,
the website accompanies new informational videos about New Jersey’s paid and
unpaid leave options produced by Baby Box University, The Baby Box Company’s
free educational platform. The videos
are available to anyone who registers on Baby Box University and chooses
the New Jersey syllabus from the drop down menu on the homepage.
Figure 2: Screenshot of Baby Box University educational portal
“While we regularly share our research findings with policymakers and advocates, we want our knowledge about public programs to be useful to families with children as well,” says NCCP Director Renée Wilson-Simmons.
The videos, which feature an expert
on New Jersey leave programs, describe eligibility requirements and the
application process for Temporary Disability Insurance (TDI) and Family Leave Insurance
(FLI), both of which provide partial wage replacement during leaves from work. Also
described in the videos are two unpaid leave protections: the federal Family
and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the New Jersey Family Leave Act (NJ FLA). Both
protect eligible workers from losing their job while on leave. The website provides
links to the online applications and other resources from A Better Balance, the New Jersey Labor
and Workforce Development Department, and the
New Jersey Time to Care Coalition.
Findings from NCCP’s 2015 qualitative study of New Jersey’s Family Leave
Insurance program was the catalyst for creation of the website and videos. Thus
far, California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island have enacted paid family leave programs
for workers, and Washington state, New York, and Washington, D.C., will do so
soon. In New Jersey, however, the state’s Family Leave Insurance program is
underutilized when compared with other state
study, building on previous research which showed low awareness of
the program among less-advantaged New Jersey voters, found high levels of
confusion regarding availability of, eligibility for, and interaction between
state and federal leave programs and protections. In addition, study
participants identified health care providers as trusted sources of information.
Recognizing widespread trust in health professionals, Baby Box Company is
partnering with hospitals to distribute as many boxes as the estimated number
of babies to be born in New Jersey in 2017. These digital resources have the
potential to be a far-reaching and inclusive way to educate all new parents in
the state about their leave options at the exact moment they are likely to be
eligible for them.
Baby boxes provide
physical and educational resources
by the Finnish government’s long-standing maternity packages initiative, The Baby Box Company partnered
with the New Jersey Department of Children and Families earlier this year to
distribute approximately 105,000 baby boxes to expecting parents across the
state. The box itself is meant to serve as the baby’s first bed until the baby
can pull itself up; it also contains diapers, baby clothes, and other items.
The program is credited with contributing to the
decline in Finland’s infant mortality rates by reducing sleep-related deaths,
supporting the hope that baby boxes in New Jersey will decrease Sudden Unexplained
Infant Deaths (SUIDs) related to sleep environments, which accounted for 93 percent of
all SUIDs in 2014. The goal is to provide universal access to both educational
and physical resources for New Jersey parents to reduce sleep environment-related
infant deaths and improve overall infant and maternal health.
Figure 3: Baby boxes are meant to serve as a child’s
first bed and come with other resources.
One of the main appeals of the baby box model lies in its educational potential. In order to receive a box, expecting parents
in New Jersey must complete the New Jersey syllabus via an online educational
portal called Baby Box University.
Completing the syllabus requires creating an account (for free), watching a set
of videos, and answering a short quiz related to the video content. Once
completed, parents can pick up a baby box at a local hospital or have one
shipped to their home. The required syllabus in New Jersey was
developed in consultation with leading physicians and health experts. In
addition, parents have access to a digital library of health education
materials, including videos, articles, “ask an expert” interactive features,
quizzes, and e-books on a range of issues related to newborn care (e.g., safe
sleep, local family services, breastfeeding). The reach and structure of Baby Box University present a unique
opportunity to inform a large proportion of expecting and new parents in New
Jersey about their leave-taking rights and benefits. By translating complex
policy information into understandable terms via a free online platform, this
low-cost initiative aims to make essential benefit information accessible,
providing it to people when they need it the most.
family leave benefits infant and maternal health
The belief that working people should be provided paid leave
from work to bond with a new child or care for a seriously ill family member is
gaining traction in the United States, marked by the recent uptick in the
adoption of paid family leave policies at the state, municipal, and corporate
levels. A nationwide poll conducted in November 2016 showed
that 78 percent of the population favors establishing a national paid family
and medical leave program, and policymakers on both sides of the aisle have
acknowledged its importance to infant and maternal health. Leave to care for a
newborn has been associated with improvements in child cognitive outcomes and infant health, increases in breastfeeding, higher likelihood of infant immunization and well-baby visits, and decreases in maternal depression.
Research suggests that state and federal
policies have increased the likelihood of leave-taking as well as the length of
leave taken by parents with infants. People
cannot benefit, however, if they do not know about leave programs. This
collaboration is designed to change that.