One of the toughest transitions for many new parents is the time when they have to leave their new baby and resume work after maternity or paternity leave. With this transition comes the time and dedication in finding suitable child care for their little one while they’re away at work. But what would happen if it became an acceptable norm for new parents to bring their baby to work with them? If it was seen more as a benefit for all employees rather than a distraction in the workplace?
Well, one organization in North Carolina did just that. Located southeast of Raleigh with 23 employees, The Partnership for Children of Johnston County is a nonprofit organization that helps improve the safety, health and emotional well-being of young children and has built a supportive, nurturing culture for its own new parents. Each parent can take 12 weeks of paid parental leave, bring their baby back to work with them after their paid leave for up to six months, and new moms can utilize private, comfortable breastfeeding areas onsite.
“We are one big family at the Partnership for Children and make it a priority in putting our staff and their families first. We need to practice the type of policies we advocate for within the community and align our employee policies with our family-first philosophy,” states Karen Mills, operations director at the Partnership for Children of Johnston County. “The babies are just a joy to have around, and they make our employees happier, and everyone is just as, if not more, productive. We found the babies bring us all closer together.”
As part of the baby at work policy, mothers, fathers and permitted guardians are allowed to bring their infants to work for the first six months of the infant’s life or until the infant starts to crawl. Also, parents designate two-to-three alternate care providers within the workplace who voluntarily agree to take care of the infant in the event the parent is not available due to meetings or conference calls.
New mom Lovette Kirks, early childhood education specialist at The Partnership for Children, had a premature baby who ended up in the hospital for several weeks. “During this time, my colleagues were so supportive as they offered to bring my family meals and take care of my older daughter, Lola. They also bought us everything off our baby registry to help take any stress off my family.”
Because Lovette’s baby, Belle, was premature, she was not going to be healthy enough to go to child care, so having the option to bring her to work after her maternity leave was a much-appreciated employee benefit. Kirks states. “From an employee perspective, this organization is so family-forward. They love my family and me. “
As part of her role at the Partnership for Children of Johnston County, Lovette is very engaged within the community. She assists with professional development for teachers, provides support for mothers overcoming addiction and is a breastfeeding advocate within the community. At many community events, the team sets up breastfeeding and pumping tents to ensure comfort and accessibility for all new mothers.
The Think BabiesTM Bus Tour, a collaboration between the Partnership for Children, the Johnston County Public Health Department, Johnston Community College and Local Child Care Providers, is an interactive bus tour that stops at local childcare centers. At each stop, the team discusses and explores issues families and their young children face as well as the state of the childcare industry in Johnston County.
During one of the rides along the tour, Lovette spoke to attendees about how to adopt reasonable workplace accommodations for pregnant employees and breastfeeding mothers, highlighting the successes the Partnership for Children has seen with its family-forward benefits and how other organizations can utilize them as well.
“We are all about creating a stronger family network within the community,” explains Dwight Morris, executive director at the Partnership for Children. “And we, as an organization, need to step forward in what we know and are good policies. To change workplace culture, we need to live the culture we want to change.” Morris continues, “We want to provide our employees with some financial support, help build stronger families, and alleviate the worries that come along with sending a new baby to child care. When the babies are here, our staff is always happy and smiling.”
For more information about the Partnership for Children of Johnston County, visit http://www.partnershipforchildrenjoco.org/.
Sample benefits: Partnership for Children of Johnston County
- Babies at work
- Paid parental leave of 12 weeks
- Breastfeeding accommodations
- Health, dental and vision insurance
- Bring your pet to work