Paid Parental Leave marks first anniversary with more than 1,600 employees using family benefit Benefit helps to level the playing field with private sector as a critical tool for recruitment and retention

Raleigh

More than 1,600 state employees used Paid Parental Leave in the first year the benefit became available through an executive order issued by Governor Roy Cooper. Paid time off was extended to birth mothers to recover and to families to bond with a newborn or a child placed through adoption, fostering or other legal placement.

“Paid Parental Leave supports families and helps our state attract and retain a strong workforce,” said Governor Roy Cooper, who signed Executive Order 95: Providing Paid Parental Leave (PPL) to Eligible State Employees on May 23, 2019. “Research consistently shows that it promotes wellness for both parent and the child, provides needed time for early family bonding, and improves employee retention and morale.”

The order provides eight weeks of fully paid leave for birth mothers to recover and bond with their newborn, and four weeks for other parents to bond with the child; in both cases, leave may be used intermittently. While it applied specifically to Cabinet agencies under the Governor’s direction, most other state agencies opted into the benefit for their employees.

With the average age of state employees at 46, and 23% of state employees eligible for full retirement benefits within five years, PPL is a critical recruitment and retention tool to bring new workers into the state workforce, said State Human Resources Director Barbara Gibson.

“Offering Paid Parental Leave quickly established itself as a way to help level the playing field between state government and the private sector,” Gibson said. “It is important that we are recognized as a workplace with competitive benefits to recruit and retain top workers with in-demand skills and provide needed support that enable them to see public service as a rewarding career choice.”

A new report compiled by the Office of State Human Resources shows that in the first ten months the benefit was available, 1,614 state employees – including 1,006 state agency employees and 608 UNC System employees – used PPL between Sept. 1, 2019 and June 30, 2020:

State Agency Employees UNC System Employees
377 birth mothers 276 birth mothers
629 other eligible parents 332 other eligibile parents
414 female employees 387 female employees
592 male employees 221 male employees

NOTE: All future reports will align with the fiscal year and report the full twelve month year from July 1 through June 30.

Two of the largest state agencies had the highest number of employees using the benefit: 470 at the Department of Public Safety, and 231 at the Department of Health and Human Services. In the University System, highest use occurred at North Carolina State University, with 228 employees, and UNC Chapel Hill, with 126 employees.

State employees interested in using PPL should discuss their situation with their Agency Human Resources Office.

The following examples include state employees who are among the first to use PPL and who are receptive to media inquiries. For assistance, contact Office of State Human Resources Communications Director Jill Warren Lucas at 919-218-0044 or jill.lucas@nc.gov.

Caitlin and Drew Gardner (Greenville)
Caitlin Gardner: Mental Health Clinical Pharmacist, Walter B. Jones Center, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services
Drew Gardner: Electrician, East Carolina University (Contact: 252-904-4720 or Caitlin.gardner@dhhs.nc.gov)

With a difficult pregnancy that required a month of hospitalization prior to delivery on Feb. 1, Caitlin Gardner was deeply grateful to have access to eight weeks of PPL.

“There’s no way I could have gone back to work right away. I wasn’t even allowed to drive,” Gardner said. “Having the Paid Parental Leave, I was able to recover at home and not feel rushed to go back to work when I really wasn’t able.”

Husband Drew Gardner took his four weeks of PPL at the end of her maternity leave, ensuring the family was able to keep their son Tate home during the COVID-19 pandemic. A family member now provides childcare so the couple can report to work.

Gardner describes her baby as “sweet and outgoing.”

“He’s always laughing and smiling, and he’s crawling way too early and already sitting up,” she said.

Genia Newkirk (Raleigh)
DMV Division of School Bus and Traffic Safety, N.C. Department of Transportation (Contact: Work cell, 919-608-3830 or glnewkirk@ncdot.gov)

Genia Newkirk knew that her brother had a child with a woman with whom he no longer had a relationship. She had no connection with the child until she discovered that she and several half-siblings had been placed in the foster care system due to an unstable home life.

“I was hesitant in accepting the responsibilities that come with raising a child, but my faith in God provided me the courage and strength to accept this new responsibility,” said Newkirk, who has an adult son.

She arranged to meet the then-5-year-old child at a foster home. The two had an immediate connection and she requested a transfer in foster care. On Sept. 10, 2019, just days after PPL went into effect, Newkirk finalized legal guardianship of the now 7-year-old Nadia Newkirk, who calls her Auntie G.

Being able to use PPL to support Nadia’s adjustment to her new life, including required counseling, home visits and other needs, as well as allow time for Newkirk to adjust to the new routine of parenting an active daughter, has enabled her to manage her time, bills and workload.

“Paid Parental Leave really helped provide the down time we needed to become a family,” Newkirk said, adding with pride that her daughter’s teacher described her as “the most resilient child from the foster system she’s ever had.”

While the journey has not been without challenges, Newkirk said she now can’t imagine her life without Nadia. “She’s just an amazing child, happy and artistic, with 50 million questions from the time she wakes up until she goes to bed.”

Melissa and Daniel Logue (Wilson)
Longleaf Neuro-Medical Center, N.C. Department of Health and Human Services
Both are Licensed Practical Nurses (LPN) (Contact: 252-292-6312 or Daniel.Logue@dhhs.nc.gov)

Last Sept. 6, Melissa and Daniel Logue welcomed newborn Roman into their family. About six months later, the paperwork for his adoption became final.

“It’s hard to believe he’s about to have his first birthday,” said Daniel Logue, who described his son as “really intelligent” and “always happy.”

The couple both work as nurses for Longleaf Neuro-Medical Center and both were eligible for four weeks of PPL, which they extended with a few weeks of earned vacation leave.

“It was enormously helpful to have that time to spend with him, and also to address all the communication necessary with the birth parents, the agency and the attorneys,” Logue said. “It also was great knowing that we both had leave available for future needs. We didn’t have to worry about taking time for doctor’s appointments or anything that might come up.”

Logue said a coworker recently asked him about the experience of using PPL as she also is considering adopting a child.

“I told it was great for us and helped so much with getting through the process,” he said. “Those early weeks are so important to spend time with your child. We’re grateful we had Paid Parental Leave to see us through that.”

Tashamma Smith (Raleigh)
Business Registration Division, Office of the Secretary of State (Contact: No photo and available for audio interview only; call 919-218-0044 or jill.lucas@nc.gov)

Since April 2019, Tashamma Smith has been foster mother to an 8-year-old daughter who she is now in the process of adopting. She took her four weeks of PPL all at once, returning to her job in August.

“I thought about taking it intermittently, but this really allowed me to spend time with her to learn her strengths and weaknesses, and how I can help her,” Smith said. The child, who calls her Mommy, is musically inclined with a beautiful singing voice. She loves gymnastics, swimming and animals.

She also enjoys connecting with siblings who have been adopted from foster care by other families, all of whom live within an hour’s drive. “It’s important to all of the families that they keep in touch,” Smith said.

In addition to bonding, PPL allowed Smith time for actions mandated by the foster system, as well as to prepare for adoption. “So much of your time is filled up doing required things,” Smith said. “Paid Parental Leave allowed me to have more time with my child, so we both didn’t feel burned out at the end of the day.”

Miles Sampson (Lumberton)
Senior Officer, Wildlife Resources Commission (Contact: 910-620-3327 or miles.sampson@ncwildlife.org)

In planning for the arrival of his second child, Officer Miles Sampson figured he’d do the same thing as when daughter Riley was born three years ago: dip into his accrued sick leave and take two weeks off to help his wife, Candice, and bond with the baby.

Instead, when son Hunter arrived on Feb. 12, Sampson was able to take four weeks of PPL.

“I had heard about Paid Parental leave and knew it was available to mothers, but I was really excited when I found out it applied to fathers, too,” said Sampson, who lives and works in Robeson County.

“I was able to do more to help my wife and it was a real benefit to bond with our son. It was a whole different experience from when our daughter was born.”

Sampson is grateful to still have earned sick leave and vacation leave for future needs. “I know I’ll need it eventually, when the kids or my wife are sick, or when we can take time off as a family,” he said.

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