By Alison Miller
On August 25, 2021, the NCIOM hosted a learning collaborative event designed to connect and align our North Carolina Essentials for Childhood project partners with the North Carolina Serious Illness Coalition, Coalition on Aging, and other caregiver partners with the goal of providing an in-depth analysis of family-friendly workplace policies and caregiver supports. We also aimed to identify opportunities for additional cross-sector partnerships and priorities for aligned research and action. This event served as a follow-up to our first event, which focused on the status of family-friendly workplace policies in North Carolina and other employee supports, especially as related to COVID-19; the needs of working families; and caregiver-focused advocacy work that includes employer-based policies.
The August 25th event featured presentations from Dr. Bart Klika from Prevent Child Abuse America, Dr. Kimberly Montez from the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity at Wake Forest, and Nancy Astrike from the North Carolina Office of State Human Resources’ Division of Diversity and Workforce Services. Attendees heard about the importance of family-friendly workplace policies and caregiver supports in preventing adverse childhood experiences, promoting health equity, and supporting labor force participation in North Carolina. Several highlights include:
- Although 84% of voters in the United States support the implementation of a paid family and medical leave policy for all, only 19% and 40% of workers have access to paid family leave and paid medical leave, respectively. Additionally, Black and multiracial families have unequal access to paid leave, and are more likely than White families to experience job disruptions due to child care challenges.
- The labor force participation rate in North Carolina was 5% in February 2020, but dropped to 59.5% by March 2021 as workers remained home for multiple reasons, including child care needs and perceived health risks. This issue particularly impacts women, who have left the workforce at higher rates than men.
- Expanding access to family-friendly workplace policies can allow parents and other caregivers to continue working and supporting their families, and has been associated with improvements in physical and mental health among parents and children, while also improving economic stability and reducing child maltreatment.
- Ongoing key priorities for action include increasing awareness of the need for family-friendly workplace policies and caregiver supports across populations and age groups; strengthening partnerships with individuals with chronic conditions, their caregivers, and advocacy organizations; and leveraging momentum during the COVID-19 pandemic to expand or sustain family-friendly workplace policies and caregiver supports.
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North Carolina Essentials for Childhood
The Division of Public Health, under the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, has been funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to develop and implement a public health framework for child maltreatment prevention since 2013. As a partner in this initiative, the North Carolina Institute of Medicine (NCIOM) convened the Task Force on Essentials for Childhood in 2014 – 2015, which issued recommendations to stakeholders in four areas with the goal of ensuring safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments to strengthen families and prevent child maltreatment.
Since 2016, the NCIOM has served as the backbone organization to support the implementation of the 2015 task force recommendations by coordinating aligned work across project partners, convening a series of workgroups, and participating in several other statewide initiatives to ensure that the recommendations are included in new and ongoing work. In 2019, the North Carolina Essentials for Childhood project announced a new focus on strategies addressing social norms change and economic supports for families (specifically centered around family-friendly workplace policies). The North Carolina Essentials for Childhood project provides funding support to our partners engaged in these activities:
- Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina’sawareness campaign, Connections Matter. Through a series of training modules, promotional strategies, and personal stories, the Connections Matter initiative aims to emphasize the importance of family and community relationships in building resilience for children impacted by trauma and other adverse childhood experiences. During the pandemic, Prevent Child Abuse North Carolina has helped non-profit organizations pivot to virtual service delivery, worked with partners to organize and adapt resources for organizations supporting families, and aligned with state and national partners to advocate for policies that support families.
- The North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation’s Family Forward NC (FFNC) initiative, which is focused on improving children’s health and well-being and keeping North Carolina’s businesses competitive. Business-led change to increase access to research-based family-friendly practices improves recruitment and retention and workplace productivity, while growing a strong economy that supports children’s healthy development. Through the FFNC initiative, the North Carolina Early Childhood Foundation educates and engages employers about the value of providing family-friendly workplace benefits and moves employers to add new family-friendly benefits to their workplaces. In August 2020, the FFNC initiative launched the COVID-19 Rapid Response Program, which provides free access to experts in human resources to assist employers in identifying industry-appropriate, family-friendly workplace benefits, while also helping employers and working families to build resilience during and after the pandemic.
- MomsRising’s ongoing work to build public awareness about the benefits of paid leave policies, and to increase community capacity for implementation at the local level. MomsRising is working to engage community-level stakeholders, provide technical assistance to local governments, and coordinate storytelling campaigns and media toolkits for community partners. Throughout the pandemic, MomsRising has continued to advocate for paid sick leave, kin care, and safe days, partnered with FFNC and other organizations on a survey to assess family-friendly workplace policies in local government, and engaged with state and local legislators.
- NC Child’s work to create an interactive data resource and provide direct technical assistance to organizations working to develop communication strategies using disaggregated data. NC Child will also conduct training webinars focused on analyzing, displaying, and communicating data that will be accessible to organizations across the state. In February 2021, the NCIOM and NC Child published the 2021 Child Health Report Card, which provides county-level data on key indicators in four areas: healthy births, access to care, secure homes, and health risk factors. The Child Health Report Card also includes current data snapshots related to children’s health and the impact of the pandemic on children and families.
For additional information on the North Carolina Essentials for Childhood project, click here.