Suma Setty, Curtis Skinner & Renée Wilson-Simmons (2020) Bonding time: low-income mothers and New Jersey’s family leave insurance program, Community, Work & Family, 23:2, 141-161, DOI: 10.1080/13668803.2018.1501551

Recovering from childbirth while trying to balance workplace demands and stretch financial resources creates multiple stressors in the lives of low-income families. New Jersey is one of only three states that offers Family Leave Insurance (FLI), a program that enables parents to leave their job to bond with and care for their new child with some financial support. However, survey research shows that FLI is underutilized by low-income populations. Because little is known about the experiences of low-income working parents in New Jersey who have used FLI, it has been impossible to understand why this is the case. This qualitative study used Framework analysis to explore low-income mothers’ experiences balancing work and a new child with or without New Jersey FLI, pinpoint barriers to FLI use, and identify ways to improve the program. Through focus groups and individual interviews, researchers found that lack of worker awareness and employer support are major barriers to FLI use. In addition, confusion about the program and administrative inefficiencies burden those who use it and undermine FLI’s core purposes. Recommendations for program improvement include better outreach as well as administrative and benefit reforms to ensure that the program effectively serves low-income working parents and their children.