The type and quality of interactions a child has with his or her parents and other caregivers is one of the most important factors in building the brain’s foundation. Many parents are stretched thin, particularly new or young parents and parents who are economically disadvantaged, lack stable housing or are food insecure.
Zero to Three, a national advocacy organization, conducted a survey that assessed Millennial and Generation X parents’ thinking about raising young children. The survey found that “many parents don’t realize just how young babies and toddlers are when they can begin to feel complex emotions. Nor do they realize how deeply infants can be affected by the way parents interact with them in the first months of life.” Zero to Three warned of a “missing year” of important opportunities for parents to support their child’s development.
Because the bond between parent and child is so critical, some states are considering paid family leave as a policy option to enable parents to spend more time with their babies. Six states—California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington—and the District of Columbia have paid family leave laws and more than half of them enacted legislation within the last two years. New York’s 2016 law was implemented in early 2018, Washington state and Washington, D.C.’s paid leave policies will take effect in 2020, and Massachusetts’ policy begins in 2021. New Jersey's 2019 law expanded its paid family leave program and new provisions will take effect later in 2019 and in 2020.