During National Family Caregivers Month in November the National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is joining the nation’s leading researchers on aging, work and family issues to send a first-of-its-kind letter to Congress urging lawmakers to address the rapidly growing demand for care.
These experts are calling on Congress to quickly pass a comprehensive, inclusive national policy like the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, legislation that would create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program.
Unless such legislation is passed, the financial and emotional strains on family caregivers and older adults will worsen.
“As the largest membership organization of professional social workers in the world, NASW is committed to enhancing the well-being of working families through its work and through its advocacy,” said NASW CEO Angelo McClain, PhD, LICSW. “We see firsthand the toll it takes on families’ health and economic security when working people have to choose between caring for their loved ones and their financial stability during periods of personal and family illness.”
“That’s why we endorse the FAMILY Act, which would help ensure working families have the job and economic security that paid family and medical leave would provide, benefiting working people, their families and the economy,” McClain added.
At least 75 percent of the 20 million workers who take unpaid family and medical leave each year under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) do so to meet the serious medical needs of their own or a loved one. The need for such leave is expected to grow significantly as the population of adults aged 65 and older continues to grow.
Meanwhile, the number of family members who are able to provide care is expected to fall dramatically as baby boomers transition from providing family care to needing it.
Only 60 percent of workers are eligible for job-protected, unpaid leave under FMLA and many cannot afford to take it.
“With so much at stake for family caregivers and those who need care, it is critically important that members of Congress heed the strong body of research that shows the urgent need for paid family and medical leave,” said NASW member Dr. Jennifer Greenfield, assistant professor at the University of Denver Graduate School of Social Work. “Millions of working people are serving as family caregivers to aging parents and other family members, and they frequently report financial, physical and emotional strain, especially when their jobs and our nation’s workplace policies fail to acknowledge or support their caregiving responsibilities.”