By Alison Miller
On May 19, 2021, the North Carolina Institute of Medicine (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 following goals in mind:
- Share updates on the status of family-friendly workplace policies in North Carolina and other employee supports, especially as related to COVID-19 and the needs of working families
- Share updates on caregiver-focused advocacy work that includes employer-based policies
- Identify opportunities for additional cross-sector partnerships and priorities for aligned research and action
The event featured presentations from Beth Messersmith and Tina Sherman from MomsRising, Barrie Smith, a parent advocate trainer and member of the Pediatric Palliative Care Coalition of North Carolina, and Mark Hensley from AARP NC. Attendees discussed data and information gaps that need to be addressed to promote and expand family-friendly workplace and employer-based policies, communication and dissemination strategies to increase awareness and support, and key priorities for action. Several highlights include:
- In the United States, 40 million workers double as caregivers and 61% of those caregivers are women. Nearly 24% provide care to more than one person, while 26% report difficulty coordinating care. To address challenges faced by caregivers, AARP NC recommends that employers consider flexible work arrangements, train managers to be frontline supporters, and create a family-centered culture.
- In North Carolina, 65% of children live in households where all available parents are currently working, and 44% of mothers are the sole or primary breadwinner for their families, earning at least half of their total household income. Expanding family-friendly workplace policies and caregiver supports can allow caregivers to continue working and supporting their families, reducing economic insecurity and improving outcomes for women, children, and families.
- Additional data to improve understanding and awareness of the needs of employees, individuals with chronic conditions and their caregivers, and data to assess the cost of hospitalizations compared to home and community-based services or residential care were identified as gaps.
- Storytellers and the sharing of families’ experiences were described as critical to increasing support for family-friendly workplace and employer-based policies.
- 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 were identified as key priorities for action.
The NCIOM is planning a second learning collaborative event that will provide a policy deep dive to identify actionable next steps. Please stay tuned, and sign up to receive updates on this event and other North Carolina Essentials for Childhood activities here.
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.