Employment, family leave, and parents of newborns or seriously ill children

Acad Pediatr. May-Jun 2012;12(3):181-8. doi: 10.1016/j.acap.2012.02.001. Epub 2012 Mar 28.


Objectives: Parents of newborns and children with special health care needs (CSHCN) often experience conflict between employment and family responsibilities. Family leave benefits such as the federal Family and Medical Leave Act and California's Paid Family Leave Insurance program help employed parents miss work to bond with a newborn or care for an ill child. The use of these benefits, however, is rare among mothers of CSHCN and fathers in general and limited even among mothers of newborns. We explored barriers to and experiences with leave-taking among parents of newborns and CSHCN.

Methods: We conducted semistructured qualitative interviews in 2008 with 10 mothers and 10 fathers of newborns and 10 mothers and 10 fathers of CSHCN in Los Angeles to explore their need for and experiences with family leave. Qualitative analytical techniques were used to identify themes in the transcripts.

Results: All parents reported difficulties in accessing and using benefits, including lack of knowledge by employers, complexity of rules and processes, and inadequacy of the benefits themselves. Parents of CSHCN also described being too overwhelmed to rapidly seek and process information in the setting of urgent and often unexpected health crises. Most parents expressed a clear desire for expert guidance and saw hospitals and clinics as potentially important providers.

Conclusions: Even when parents are aware of family leave options, substantial barriers prevent many, especially parents of CSHCN, from learning about or applying for benefits. Clinics and hospitals might be opportune settings to reach vulnerable parents at times of need.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Disabled Children*
  • Employment / organization & administration*
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Insurance Benefits / statistics & numerical data
  • Los Angeles
  • Male
  • Parental Leave / statistics & numerical data*
  • Parents*
  • Qualitative Research