While other counties and cities are busy passing unnecessary resolutions to protect inanimate objects that fire bullets at a high velocity, the Kanawha County Commission has approved a measure that will actually improve the lives of those it employs.
Kanawha County workers now have 12 weeks of paid family leave, which applies to parents of newborn children, adoptive parents, foster parents and grandparents who will raise their grandchildren.
The move comes after Congress voted in December to enact a similar federal policy, although it does not cover grandparents raising children — a phenomenon occurring in high numbers in West Virginia and the rest of Appalachia, traced mainly to the opioid crisis. With many biological parents either incarcerated on drug charges, going through rehab or dead from an overdose, grandparents have been filling the void.
There also is a bill in the West Virginia House, filed by Delegate Moore Capito, R-Kanawha, and co-sponsored by Delegate Eric Nelson, R-Putnam, that would provide 12 weeks of paid family leave for state employees following the birth or adoption of a child, or if a family member is suffering from a serious illness. House Bill 4189 was referred to the House Judiciary Committee last week, and would have to pass the House Finance Committee, as well, before going to the full chamber.
It’s good that Kanawha County is recognizing that giving new parents — biological, adoptive or otherwise — more time with their children is in the best interest of everyone. Parents, of whatever type, need time not only to enjoy their new addition to the family, but to adjust, without having to worry about the stresses of work. And giving parents more time to focus on the children will only help a child’s health and development.
As Americans are realizing more and more how significant that time is, it’s a good recruiting or job-retention tool for the county to be able to point to a policy like this. It lets employees know that they’re valued and respected as people, not just as workers.
Hopefully, state and federal policies addressing this will get the attention they deserve, and workplaces everywhere will be more welcoming and less stressful as a result. In the meantime, kudos to the Kanawha County Commission. Hopefully, other counties will follow the commissioners’ lead.
No one should feel guilty, restrained or fear losing their job because they have a child. Tools to strengthen families are tools that invest in the future of West Virginia.