“The Family Fund will provide monetary compensation for Chicagoland Jewish women who give birth, but do not qualify for paid maternity leave through their employer.”
Written by Mandy Hakimi, Founder of the Family Fund
Identifying a Problem Affecting My Community
The Family Fund was founded in February of this 2018, and I began publicly fundraising for it in May. The goal is to be serving families by June of 2019, but offering a one time gift of up to $500 to Jewish mothers in Chicagoland, who don’t qualify for paid leave from their employers.
Having a Child in the US
I started the fund after I had my daughter, and was seeking employment that was compatible with raising a family. I had been living in Australia for a couple years before I got married, and when I was lucky enough to become a mother, I was shocked by how little support is available in the U.S. for new parents. It didn’t make sense to me, and what made even less sense was that no one seemed to be doing anything about it.
Usually it’s the government that funds parental leave, but the United States has no Federal policy on the matter. There is FMLA–Family and Medical Leave Act–but that only offers 12 weeks of unpaid leave, and if you work for a small company, or you work less than 35 hours a week you may not qualify. Many women who do qualify can’t take the full amount of time off because they can’t afford it, and less than 12 weeks of leave from work has been linked to increased rates of postpartum depression. There are only four states that have implemented paid parental leave, and sadly Illinois is not one of them. Mothers have absolutely no guaranteed leave, and that to me is unacceptable.
The Impact of Unpaid Maternity Leave
“As a working mother, I understand how stressful it is to sacrifice your bonding and healing time with your baby to get back to work for the sake of the family finances. I support The Family Fund so mothers and families in the community shouldn’t have to give up those precious moments prematurely.” – Ruth Wait
Larger companies are catching on to the fact that it’s ultimately more expensive to lose out on talented employees by not offering proper parental support, and now a handful of private employers offer between 26 and 52 weeks of paid maternity leave. However, that still only adds up to 12% of American employees. Change is slow, and it isn’t coming fast enough to help families NOW.
Making a Difference
“This is such a worthy cause for me, even though I have not found myself in this situation first-hand. It allows me to help my sisters realize their dreams of motherhood without the financial stress. It gives me a sense of giving back to my community.” – Shirel Elisheva Solano
I’ve worked in Jewish nonprofit fundraising for about five years, and while I never intended to start my own nonprofit, I saw a huge need staring me in the face. It’s far from the first time that the Jewish community has come together to help one another, where the government falls short. But it’s bigger than just Chicagoland by far. When I first began researching private maternity leave funds, I didn’t find a single one. What I did find were dozens of women crowdfunding their own maternity leaves on websites like GoFundMe.
My goal is to not only help local Jewish women create a family without financial burden, but also to provide a sustainable model that can be replicated all across the country.
Mothers need time to heal physically and emotionally after birth, and to bond with their beautiful babies. We’ve been fortunate enough to gain support from our community, but we need more help to achieve our mission, and ultimately be able to give more money to more families. It is time to stop telling women that they need to choose between having a family, and providing for one.