Colorado will be a stronger place to raise a family, and a business, if our state finds a path forward to creating a quality paid family and medical leave program.

The Colorado Department of Labor and Employment (CDLE) is currently collecting comments to determine the best paid family and medical leave program for Colorado. By submitting a comment about what a paid family and medical leave program should include, you can help advocate for a good program for Colorado workers and families. Deadline to submit comment ends Wednesday, September 25.

Click HERE to share your thoughts as an employer or employee trying to raise a family.

Read Illuminate Colorado’s statement to the Paid Family and Medical Leave Task Force:

Dear Members of the Paid Family and Medical Leave Task Force,

Illuminate Colorado appreciates the opportunity to provide public comment on the development of a paid family and medical leave program for Colorado.

Illuminate Colorado is a statewide organization that builds brighter childhoods through education, advocacy, and family support. Illuminate is the Colorado chapter of Prevent Child Abuse America, Sexual Abuse Forever Ending, National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, and National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children. We support the creation of a quality paid family and medical leave program that is accessible, affordable, adequate, and equitable for all Coloradans.

Paid family and medical leave allows the family more time with an infant during the most critical year for preventing child fatality: the first year of life, when the majority of child fatalities occur. Such programs are associated with significantly higher rates of successful breastfeeding and maternal health, reductions in hospitalizations for abusive head trauma, and lower rates of family stressors and risk factors. Paid family and medical leave provides concrete support in times of need, which would ultimately increase equity and economic security in families across Colorado.

To create a strong paid family and medical leave policy, we believe any new program should have 12 weeks of paid leave minimum, although research indicates six months of paid leave actually offers the greatest amount of child development and maternal health benefits. Many child care facilities do not accept infants before 12 weeks of age.

Furthermore, the period of increased infant crying and therefore peak abusive head trauma incidence (shaken baby syndrome) extends to 20 weeks. Abusive head trauma is the leading cause of physical child abuse in the United States. Medical costs alone attributable to abusive head trauma in the four years after diagnosis average approximately $48,000 per affected child (Zolotar et al., 2015).

After California implemented a lower than minimal paid family leave policy in 2004 (6 weeks of 55% wage replacement), abusive head trauma hospital admissions decreased by 5.1 per 100,000 children (Klevens et al., 2016). These positive outcomes likely would have been greater if California had higher wage replacements at the time and if the policy were extended to 20 weeks minimum to cover the full period of increased infant crying and peak abusive head trauma incidence. Offering paid time to parents/caregivers to care for not only their infants, but also themselves, increases parental resilience, social connections, knowledge of parenting and child development, and social and emotional competence of children.

Illuminate Colorado additionally supports the provision in a paid family and medical leave policy to include safe time for survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault, and stalking. This is crucial given the intersection between maternal mental health, substance use, and intimate partner violence, all of which impact the well-being of children in the home. Several studies suggest that survivors may use substances as a way to cope with ongoing violence and mental health symptoms. 10% of birthing parents experience depression during pregnancy, and 15% experience postpartum depression, making perinatal depression the most common complication of childbirth (Postpartum Support International). Accidental drug overdose was the leading cause of death among postpartum women in Colorado from 2004-2012 (Metz et al., 2016). Offering support services for caregivers that use a two-generational approach and provide support for whole families is essential to sustaining recovery, building protective factors, and breaking the generational cycle of abuse. Children who live in homes with domestic violence are at risk of harm to their physical, social, and emotional development, as well as at risk of becoming victims of abuse themselves. Economic supports for survivors of intimate partner violence can prevent further violence, empower survivors to meet potential co-occurring needs such as mental health supports and substance use disorder treatment, and increase protective factors to prevent child abuse and neglect.

Lastly, Illuminate Colorado recognizes the value of this program as an employer who faces the current challenge of offering paid family and medical leave to our employees. Illuminate Colorado lives out its mission of strengthening families by offering employees unlimited paid time off inclusive of sick time, vacation time, medical leave, parental/caregiver leave, etc. This policy contributes to employee satisfaction, trust, productivity, and retention, all of which ultimately better serve our work. As a small organization of 12 employees, Illuminate Colorado would benefit greatly from having the State subsidize a program we are already aspiring to offer. We understand the direct positive impact a quality paid family and medical leave program will have on the families we serve, as well as in the lives of our own employees.

Thank you again for this opportunity to provide public comment in the development of a paid family and medical leave program for Colorado. Illuminate Colorado hopes you’ll consider our comments and develop a program which ensures no Coloradan ever has to choose between a paycheck and recovering from a serious illness, caring for a loved one, or bonding with a new child.


Jade Woodard
Executive Director, Illuminate Colorado

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