Many Parents Unaware of California Family Leave Program

September 2, 2008

Despite the documented need to support families with chronically ill children, California's Paid Family Leave Insurance Program has been ineffective in providing such support, possibly because many families are unaware of the program, according to a report published in the Sept. 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

TUESDAY, Sept. 2 (HealthDay News) -- Despite the documented need to support families with chronically ill children, California's Paid Family Leave Insurance Program has been ineffective in providing such support, possibly because many families are unaware of the program, according to a report published in the Sept. 3 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Mark A. Schuster, M.D., of Children's Hospital Boston, and colleagues randomly sampled employed parents of children from two children's hospitals: one in California and one in Illinois (which does not have a paid leave insurance program). Respondents included 754 parents who were interviewed before implementation of the California program and 766 parents who were interviewed after implementation.

The researchers found that the program was not associated with increased rates of parents taking at least one day of leave to care for an ill child. Before its enactment, 81 percent of parents in California and 78 percent of parents in Illinois reported taking such leave while 79 percent of parents in both California and Illinois did so afterward. They found that the program was not associated with increased rates of parents who should have taken leave but did not because they feared income loss or harm to their careers. Even 18 months after the program became law, the investigators found that only 77 (18 percent) California parents were aware of it and that only 20 (5 percent) had used it.

"An important issue for states to consider is that failure to enact paid family leave legislation will likely increase costs to the state and to the family," states the author of an accompanying editorial. "Paid family leave legislation provides incentives to keep individuals in the work force, taking advantage of the upfront education and job training that has already occurred. Without such legislation, parents of children with serious chronic health conditions are likely to drop out of the work force and lose employment-based insurance."

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