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Folks pining for paid family leave tap into crowdfunding campaigns

Posted March 30
Updated March 31

New and expectant parents are turning to online funding campaigns by friends and family to help cover the cost of unpaid family leave (Deseret Photo)

As policymakers, employers and parents try to figure out whether maternity, paternity and other family leave time should be paid or unpaid and who should shoulder the cost, some expectant and new parents are turning to an increasingly popular source of financial help: The social media crowdfunding campaign.

Think of it as GoFundMyFamilyLeave.

It's a trend that was explored this week by The Atlantic, which also points out the use of baby registries as a way to cover the cost of taking time off instead of giving the traditional passel of diapers or baby clothes.

It's certainly not an entirely new idea. As far back as 2012, the idea was being explored on the blog TheBump, where it got a bit of a mixed reception. But the topic of family leave, particularly paid leave, has gotten a lot of attention lately, with national polls, presidential campaigns and research projects all looking at the issue in some depth.

As an article in the Deseret News about the latest American Family Survey noted last fall, "For the first time, the major party presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, have each announced proposals for paid parental leave, a fact The Washington Post called 'historic.' The United States is the only industrialized nation without any kind of paid leave policy, according to the World Policy Center."

Just last week, the Pew Research Center published findings showing that most people, regardless of political party, believe that leave is helpful when a child is born or adopted. But the details — how much leave, when it should be available to both moms and dads, if it should be paid or not, and who would foot the bill for paid leave and more are sometimes contentious.

A quick search of GoFundMe finds nearly 3,000 campaign entries under the search term "maternity leave" and another nearly 1,400 under "paternity leave." They are requests for help that typically are around $2,000-$4,000, except in cases where extra time was needed because the baby or mom experienced some kind of complication that meant extra time off or extra expenses.

The Atlantic article quotes a GoFundMe spokesman who notes that thousands of similar campaigns in recent years have raised millions of dollars.

Fewer than one in eight workers have access to paid parental leave, according to federal statistics cited by Peter Holley of The Washington Post. He writes that “‘Two decades ago, the Family and Medical Leave Act broke new ground by establishing some rights to parental leave, but it is limited to 12 weeks of unpaid leave and available only to employees in medium and large firms,' Jane Waldfogel, a professor at the Columbia University School of Social Work and an author of 'Too Many Children Left Behind,' wrote last year in an op-ed for The Washington Post. As a result, mothers in the United States continue to take much shorter maternity leaves than those in other countries, and fathers typically take a week or less."

While cash registries may seem like a new way to fund parental leave, not everyone's a fan of the idea. Even back in 2012 on TheBump forum, someone writing as YellowLove24 noted that "To me, asking for money in almost any situation is really tacky. If you can't afford to take maternity leave, that's on you. Your family and friends are not responsible for you being able to take time off work."

The campaigns that seem at a cursory look to have raised the most money recently appear to be those in which a medical complication or challenge like death of a parent adds urgency to the quest for some financial support.

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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