Baltimore Mothers’ Stable Employment Promotes Child and Family Health

Baltimore Employment coverThe state of the US economy is a major source of concern among families with young children. Unemployment, rising costs, and cuts to safety net programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly  food stamps) are daily stories as many families struggle to make ends meet. The recession has had catastrophic effects for families with the fewest resources, particularly those who are raising young children.

My work with mothers and their young children in the Growth and Nutrition Clinic at the University of Maryland School of Medicine brings me face to face with many women who are balancing the demands of raising their children while experiencing job loss and reduced work hours. The mothers I meet work hard to provide the care their children need and to earn enough money to ensure stable housing and food.  However, many are experiencing recent job losses and reduced work hours, coupled with rising daily living costs.

On January 14th, Children’s HealthWatch will release a policy brief that summarizes the views of over 2,300 Maryland mothers.  What mothers want is stable employment!  They tell us that with stable employment comes better health for their young children, better physical and mental health for themselves, and a move toward economic independence.  In contrast, losing a job or having work hours reduced results in less money to manage daily needs for housing and food, resulting in increased health risks for children and mothers.  The link between maternal job loss and reduced work hours with poor health for children and mothers tells us that ensuring stable employment should have a payoff in protecting children’s health. Children’s HealthWatch recommends that providers of health care and other services ask about mothers’ health and employment.  Strategies such as extending unemployment insurance and job assistance programs may have the added benefit of improving the health of women and children.

What can we do to ensure the health of children?

  1. Ensure the physical and mental health of their mothers.
  2. Protect low-wage workers from policies that incentivize employers to cut hours
  3. Improve access to affordable, quality childcare
  4. Provide universal paid sick leave
  5. Support job training and degree programs that lead to stable employment
  6. State and national policies  to buffer the impacts of job losses

Our nation’s economy is built on individual workers, such as the mothers who bring their children to the Growth and Nutrition Clinic. Strengthening the workforce by developing strategies that enable women to be stably employed will benefit not only mothers and children, but the nation’s economy as a whole.

JOIN: Children’s HealthWatch and other policy experts to learn more about research and current policy implications on employment in Maryland on January 14th at 10am. Click here to RSVP for the webinar. Information on how to attend will be sent out in advance of the presentation.