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Intervention, Budget, and Evaluated Effectiveness of Major Policy Change for Paternal Post-Partum Depression
Paternal Postpartum Depression (PPPD) is a significant problem in America and one that we have avoided talking about for far too long. There is a growing need not only for recognition of a father’s needs during the postnatal period, but further for public support that would allow fathers to take a protected leave in the days following his child’s birth in order to allow him an appropriate time to bond with his child, develop a new routine, and avoid the primary risk factors for postpartum depression. Simply allowing time for bonding and reducing the mental, emotional and financial stressors placed on a father during the postnatal period can provide relief from the negative effects that PPPD has on both productivity and economy, and on the family unit, in the days following the birth of a new child. The United States needs to actively implement a paid-and-protected leave policy for new fathers, based on the success of similar programs in every major country in the developed world, rather than allowing PPPD to continue to grow, and shape the future of the nation’s children.
Paternal Postpartum Depression is an issue of rising concern in the United States, and cannot afford to be ignored. The known risk factors are directly related to the lack of sleep, lack of bonding, and increased stress level a father faces when he returns to work immediately after the birth of a child, and yet there is little to no support for a father who wishes to stay home during this crucial bonding period. Instituting a six-week paternal leave period, which is mandated by law, and which offers both protected leave, and financial support during that leave will ensure that fathers get the time at home with their new child that they need, in order to increase bonding, decrease stress, and prevent postpartum depression. The only way to ensure that such a period is recognized and supported in the workplace is to create a public policy, or legislation that provides for and enforces application of this principle.
There are a number of social interventions, or more importantly social policy supports, which can be put in place to support fathers during the post-natal period, and lower the impact of socio-economic pressures for a new family, while increasing the father’s sense of paternal satisfaction, greatly lowering both the medical risk of PPD, and decreasing the impact of PPD on the local economy. Thus, I propose that the United States move to implement a paid-protected leave period for all fathers during the weeks immediately following the birth of a new child.
The objective of this policy implementation will be to support new fathers in two complementary ways: by offering job-protected leave and by offering financial support during that leave (Gornick, Schmitt, and Ray, 2008). More specifically, job protection allows parents to take time to care for their child while ensuring they will be able to return to the same job after the immediate postnatal period (Gornick, Schmitt, and Ray, 2008).
The geographical focus, of catchment area, for this policy implementation will be nationwide, across the United States. Several countries have already taken steps to ensure paternal jobs are protected. For example, in Sweden, parents have a right to 15 months of paid parental leave that can be shared between mothers and fathers (Gornick, Schmitt, and Ray, 2008). Similarly, in the Netherlands, workers with two years of job tenure with the same employer have the right to a change in working hours after the birth of a child (Gornick, Schmitt, and Ray, 2008).
While in America, often only mothers are assured any kind of leave related to the birth of a child, other countries are doing a much better job in terms of gender equality. Paid paternity leave allows the father to take parental leave without forfeiting the family’s larger source of earnings (Gornick, Schmitt, and Ray, 2008). For example, Greece offers 100 percent wage replacement for a set amount of parental leave (Gornick, Schmitt, and Ray, 2008).
This is significant for low income families because guaranteed paid leave gives lower wage parents the financial security necessary to take the leave available to them (Gornick, Schmitt, and Ray, 2008). This is not true in America, where fathers are guaranteed 12 weeks through FMLA, but where there is no guarantee of paid wages if a father elects to take that time. By implementing this policy nationwide, these issues would be eliminated.
In order to support the awareness for the need, and the support from the public to fund the project through tax dollars and “yes” votes for policy creation, PSAs will be created to increase public awareness of the importance of paternal leave, and to demonstrate the inadequacy of the current American system when compared the benefits provided to fathers in benchmark case study of businesses that currently provide benefits, or fail to provide benefits for fathers to take paid time off in addition to FMLA, and compare the results. We anticipate that we will see an organized increase in utilization by fathers in cases where these benefits are available, and anticipate there will be increased productivity, and elevated satisfaction levels among fathers provided leave, when compared to those who immediately returned to work (Harrington et al., 2014). We will also complete a case study of the success of the mandated programs which have been placed in effect in New Jersey and California, in order to discover if fathers self-report a decreased level of depression, stress, and sleep loss as a result of time off work, and to determine if their employers would support the idea that they return to work more productively with leave than they would have coming back sooner, and adjusting to the new baby in their lives without leave.
This activity is based on the system’s theory, and asserts that exactly how the parental time off is supported, is less important than the outcome, or rather than the policy’s implementation is important in the broad sense rather than in the specific sense (Bertalanffy 1968). For example, rather than being interested in establishing a detailed program for helping father’s bond with their children, the policy will only be concerned with providing fathers with the time and space to strengthen that bond independently. Similarly, how the job is protected, and the salary is paid, is left at the discretion of the employer, trusting that the system will self-correct to meet the natural needs of the father, and the employer, when allowed to do so, with a specific objective, that of providing paid and protected time, in mind.
Cost of Implementation and Financial Realization
One of the primary concerns when considering the cost of implementation for a public policy is who will pay for the change, and how will it be paid for. In the case of a nationwide policy to provide a mandatory paternal leave after the birth of the child, this can be simply answered, if one considers the body of evidence provided by the implementation of such policies in, Rhode Island, New Jersey and California.
There would be no cost to actually provide the time, because it is not a change in the current minimum. 12 weeks of job-protected leave is provided through the Family Medical Leave Act, but this does not provide any payment during the period of leave. As a result, currently, only about 11 % of American workers have access to paid time off upon the birth of a child (Devlin, 2015)
In New Jersey, Paid Paternal Leave is financed through an entirely worker driven account. Shared funds are moved into a medical emergency account that is deducted from worker payroll. In order to support this sick-leave bank, each employees must contribute .09 of the taxable wage base into the pool. This costs employees less than a dollar a week, with no input from any government source or the employer. This allows employees to take up to six weeks off, at 2/3 pay. The program’s effectiveness is visible in the number of participants, including more than 160,000 fathers who have filed for leave claims since the programs initiation in 2009 (Devlin, 2015).
Demonstrating a parallel, but longer standing success, California has provided a size week leave, with 55% percent pay, for over a decade. This program has paid out roughly 1.8 claims between its initiation and 2013. The program is also employee paid, forcing all employees to pay about $30 per year into a bank of funds through California Employee Development Department (Devlin, 2015).
These programs, because they are employee sponsored, have cost both the state and the employer very little. In fact, According to Devlin, most employers surveyed agreed that the program has had a “positive effect on both profitability and performance” (2015). There is currently no business, or government opposition to the continuation of the program in any of the states where it has been implemented, which speaks well for both the affordability and acceptability of taking the program to the federal level.
Since the primary goals of the program are to support new fathers by offering job protected leave, and offering financial support during that leave, in order to support the increased bonding, and reduce the mental and emotional stress, of a new child for fathers, policy evaluation needs to be directed at measuring the success of those goals.
First, in order to measure the success of providing protected leave, we must measure the utilization of the protected leave, after it is enacted by law. In order to evaluate the measurable effectiveness of the law, we will do a population study, determining the number of fathers who take leave, under the law, over a four year period, expecting it to increase by no less than 65% in those three years. The measurable goal for the policy will be to ensure that at least 70% of all fathers take advantage of the government protected leave during the first six weeks after the birth of their child.
Secondly, in order to evaluate the measurable effectiveness of enforced payment under the law, we will include as a factor in the population study, a study of the base pay percentage paid out to fathers during their leave. This study will both measure the number of fathers receiving financial support through the policy, and the amount of support they receive. The measurable goal will be to provide at least 80% of the fathers taking advantage of the leave with at least 55% of their regular weekly income for a period of six weeks after the birth of their child.
Finally, in order to evaluate the effectiveness of the goal to increase paternal bonding, and reduced stress, through increased time at home during the post-natal period, we will conduct a survey of a population sample of new fathers, including both those who take advantage of the leave and those who return to work, to measure their self-reported parenting practices, parental bonding, stress-levels, adjustment to life as a parent, sleep patterns and other related factors, known to actively benefit from increased parenting time during the post-natal period and known to be primary factors in the development of postpartum depression.
Postpartum Depression is a very real issue for fathers, but one seldom supported by the public, and with few public policies to provide any protection or relief, in spite of the fact that poor job performance, and lack of family bonding are both significant side effects of the reduced, or non-existent post-natal leave for fathers in America. Enforcing a publicly mandated policy, which ensures at least a six-week leave period, and which provides financial support during that period, is the best course of action to reduce both the social and economic impact of postpartum depression in new fathers. This policy is not only financial feasible, but publically essential, for our nation, and should be implemented to ensure the future of families in America.
Bertalanffy, L. (1968). General system theory; foundations, development, applications. New York: George Braziller.
Devlin, D. (2015). What would it cost to have mandatory, paid parental leave? Fortune. Retrieved from http://fortune.com/2015/02/05/paid-parental-leave-costs/
Gornick, J. Schmitt, J. Ray, R. 2008. “A Detailed Look at Parental Leave Policies in 21
OECD Countries”. Washington, DC: Center for Economic and Policy Research
Briefing Paper. Retrieved from http://www.lisdatacenter.org/wp-
Harrington, B. et al., 2014. “The New Dad: Take Your Leave” Boston College Center for Work and Family- Carroll School of Management. Retrieved from http://www.thenewdad.org/yahoo_site_admin/assets/docs/BCCWF_The_New_Dad_2014_FINAL.157170735.pdf
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