When my parents emigrated from India to the United States, they left the security of their old lives behind to seek opportunity in a new country. They were lucky enough to have a community of fellow immigrants — friends and extended family who could provide mutual support and care as my parents grew into their new life. The community included my parents’ best friends, whose daughter I grew up with and consider to be my other sister.
In this community, caregiving was not limited to the nuclear family. I saw grandparents caring for grandchildren, siblings caring for siblings, friends caring for friends. I still carry the value of this caregiving with me to this day. If the woman who is like my sister were to become sick, I would do everything in my power to help take care of her.
My family’s experience is not unique among immigrant communities. Many immigrant families rely in part on family, friends and neighbors in the community to provide care for their children. And while multigenerational family households are on the rise generally in the United States, multigenerational living is even more common among immigrant-headed households.
As we fight for paid sick days and paid family and medical leave laws that allow people to maintain economic security while caring for their loved ones, it is critical that these laws allow time to care for a range of family members — not just children, parents and spouses, but also grandparents, grandchildren, siblings, and other persons related by blood or who have the equivalent of a family relationship.
When crafting inclusive work-family policies, federal policymakers should look to state innovation and successful policies already in place. For example, New Jersey recently expanded its paid leave law to, among other improvements, have a broader definition of family to include persons related by blood or the equivalent of a family relationship. While New Jersey offers the most inclusive family definition for paid leave, the six states and the District of Columbia that have enacted paid leave laws provide leave to care for grandparents, and most laws cover caregiving for grandchildren and siblings as well. In addition, most of the state and local paid sick days laws that are in place cover grandparents, grandchildren and siblings, and many of the most recently passed laws also cover persons related by blood or the equivalent of a family relationship.
#IHonorMy heritage this month by fighting to make sure that all families can take time away from work to care for each other.Back