Organization Sign-on Letter to President Biden
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
April 19, 2021
Dear Mr. President,
Thank you for your service and leadership to our country.
On behalf of bereaved families throughout America, we request you safeguard American families by including bereavement leave as part of your agenda to expand family leave benefits and protections.
As the nation confronts concurrent mortality tragedies, employment protection for the newly bereaved has never been more important. Bereavement leave is job protection and millions of Americans who have lost a loved one have no legal right to take leave, with narrow exceptions in two states and two localities. Currently, bereavement is not acceptable grounds for taking unpaid leave under the Family Medical Leave Act, except for miscarriage or stillbirth losses or when a solider is killed in action. This chasm not only leaves millions of Americans at risk for losing their job, but also can be a precipitating event that can send an individual or family into poverty, homelessness and other dire outcomes that can alter a person’s life trajectory permanently.
Job protections for the newly bereaved may include the following:
- Leave: Ten days of unpaid leave following the death of a family member or loved one.
- Age of a child: Define the age of a child up to age 26 bringing age parity with existing health care and tax law.
- Definition of a family member or loved one: While there is no one standard, proposed or passed state laws define a family member or loved one as: (1) Spouses, domestic partners, and both different-sex and same-sex significant others: or (2) Any other family member within the second degree of consanguinity or affinity: or (3) A member of the covered employee’s household, including a minor’s parents, regardless of the sex or gender of either parent. Most laws liberally define parenthood as legal parents, foster parents, same-sex parent, stepparents, those serving in loco parentis, and other persons operating in caretaker roles.
Make no mistake employment protection is not simply about planning a funeral or grieving. Maintaining family stability and solvency in the short- and long-term can be a challenge, especially when families face housing, food and other insecurities. Further, Jewish and Native American traditions, for example, have cultural and religious requirements or norms that must be carried out within specific timeframes. The threat of losing your job under these conditions is unacceptable.
The unexpected death of a loved one is the most common traumatic experience Americans report; many report their loss as their worst life experience. Today, more than 5 million families have lost a loved one due to COVID-19 in the United States, including an estimated 40,000 newly bereaved children who have lost a parent. Millions more are bereaved from deaths due to overdoses, suicide, mass murder events, homicide, transportation fatalities and other tragedies that never make our nation’s headlines. The impact of bereavement on American lives is both stunning and underappreciated. Consider the following:
- Bereaved children are at-risk of school failures, juvenile justice incarceration, drug abuse, violent crime involvement, suicide attempts, suicide, and premature death.
- Bereaved siblings are at-risk of dropping out of school, teen pregnancy, and premature death.
- Bereaved parents are at heightened risk for depressive symptoms, poorer well-being, less purpose in life, more health complications, marital disruption, psychiatric hospitalization, cancer incidence, dementia, and premature death.
- Bereaved spouses at risk of depression, post-traumatic stress, prolonged grief and premature death.
Racial inequalities are magnified across the life course as Black Americans are more likely to experience the death of children, spouses, siblings and parents when compared to white Americans. They are three times as likely as white Americans to have two or more family members die by the time they reach the age of 30.
Bereavement leave is not an academic exercise. Real families are behind these statistics.
Today, families are left to fend for themselves and without any legal protections. Losing a loved one is more than an emotional hardship, it is an urgent threat to their family wellbeing and economic resiliency. If bereavement leave is not considered now, it will be years before Congress will reconsider codifying employment protections into law.
As the nation’s highest office, we ask that you provide job protection to America’s newly bereaved families. No other time in history has this been more urgent. The cost of inaction is incalculable.
We look forward to working with you and your administration.
2 Degrees Foundation
A Sacred Passing Death Midwifery and Community Education
Advocates for Victims of Impaired/Distracted Driving
Alana Rose Foundation
Alive Alone, Inc.
American Association for Psychoanalysis in Clinical Social Work
AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety
Association for Ambulatory Behavioral Healthcare
Austin Center for Grief & Loss
Banister Advisors, LLC
Bereaved Parents of Madison, Inc. Madison, WI
Better Not Bitter Mom LLC
Camp HOPE Inc.
Casey Feldman Foundation
Center for Alternatives in Community Justice
Center for Complicated Grief
Child HELP Partnership
Children’s Grief Center of New Mexico
Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas
Clinical Social Work Association
Coalition of Concerned Mothers
Confederation of Independent Psychoanalytic Societies
Conor Lynch Foundation
COPE, New York
Counseling Program, Marshall University
COVID Survivors for Change
Dane County, County Executive, Joe Parisi
Empowered NICU Parenting
Erin’s House for Grieving Children
Evolving My Path
Families for Safe Streets
Florida Teen Safe Driving Coalition
Friends of Aine
Glioblastoma Support Network
Gold Star Parents Retreat
Grief Resource Center
Hang Up And Drive
Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies – The Montana Coalition
Hope and Healing of Pinellas
HOPE Connection, Los Angeles
Hospice Foundation of America
Infant Death Center of Wisconsin
Institute for Safer Trucking
Journey Through Bereavement
Louis D. Brown Peace Institute
Marked By COVID
Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance
Mayor, City of Madison, Satya Rhodes-Conway
Mothers’ Milk Alliance, Inc. Madison, WI
Myers Compassionate Grief Services
Na Keiki O Emalia (Emalia’s Children)
National Alliance of Grieving Children
National Association for Rural Mental Health
National Association of County Behavioral Health & Developmental Disability Directors
New Hope for Kids
Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep
Parent Support of Puget Sound
Portland Institute for Loss and Transition
Public Health Madison & Dane County, Wisconsin
Refuge in Grief
Safe Crossings Foundation
Southern California Families for Safe Streets
Star Legacy Foundation
Stop 4 Aidan
Street Racing Kills
String of Pearls
Sudden Infant Death Services of Illinois, Inc.
The Catch You Later Foundation
The Children’s Room
The Cove Center for Grieving Children
The Dougy Center
The Grief Center of Southwest Colorado
The Kentucky Center for Grieving Children and Families, Inc.
The Sun Will Rise Foundation, Inc.
The Tristesse Grief Center
The Wendt Center for Loss & Healing
Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors (TAPS)
Uplift Center for Grieving Children
Virginia Mason Grief Services
Walking Each Other Home Madison, WI
We Save Lives
Employers Should Have Clear, Written Bereavement Leave Benefit Policies
The unexpected death of a loved one is the most common traumatic experience Americans report, many report their loss as their worst life experience. Employees who need time off from work to grieve and cope with the death of a loved one have no legal right to take leave, with narrow exceptions in two states and two localities. Bereavement is not acceptable grounds for taking unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, despite recent efforts to add bereavement to this law. While many employers offer bereavement leave, it is often only a few days, which is insufficient time for most employees to return to work and productivity after the death of a family member.
As our nation faces the coronavirus pandemic, drug overdoses, suicide and mass gun violence events, employers are forced to acknowledge bereavement and its implications for families, while staying solvent and productive. It is a difficult balance for employers to strike. To address these needs and set national standards, Evermore recommends employers institute a bereavement leave benefit (note: not to be confused with sick leave):
Employers Bereavement Guidelines
- Employers with five or more employees should have clear, written bereavement leave benefit policies in employee handbooks or outlined in similar guidance.
- Small employers (fewer than 50 employees) should offer five days of unpaid leave to bereaved employees following the death of a close family member; thereby, permitting individuals to return to work at the conclusion of the five-day unpaid, leave period.
- Mid-sized employers (between 50 and 499 employees) should offer five days of paid leave following the death of a close family member and employees should have the option of two additional weeks of unpaid bereavement leave; thereby, permitting individuals to return to work at the conclusion of the 15-day leave period.
- Large employers (more than 500 employees) should offer ten days of paid leave following the death of a close family member and employees should have the option of two additional weeks of unpaid bereavement leave; thereby, permitting individuals to return to work at the conclusion of the 20-day leave period.
Help Bereaved Mothers and Babies Receive Bereavement Care
Want to help bereaved mothers and children, here’s what you can do:
The Maternal and Child Health Bureau Title V block grant is one of our nation’s most significant investments in health and wellbeing. The $6.5 billion program reaches every state and jurisdiction in the nation touching an estimated 55 million people, including pregnant women, infants, children and children with disabilities. Nearly every infant and mother benefits from the program, while more than half of all American children are helped. Want to help bereaved mothers and children, here’s what you can do:
Evermore Submits Letter to American Psychiatric Association Supporting Amendments to Prolonged Grief Disorder for Children and Adolescents
The unexpected or untimely death of a loved one is the most common traumatic life event touching Americans; many of them ranking it the worst event of their lives. Today, an estimated ten million children have experienced these uniquely devastating losses. Grief itself is an individual and iterative process. It is an exogenous shock that irrevocably alters lifelong health development pathways alongside other social and economic aspects of our lives. While the decision to pathologize grief is one of the most controversial and polarizing topics among leading bereavement professionals, we know that the planning, delivery, and reimbursement of appropriate treatment and care requires the identification and diagnosis of real conditions. When it comes to bereavement, many of today’s debates overlook one essential and often invisible demographic: minority and impoverished children.
Death and bereavement disproportionately impact communities of color, thereby widening and exacerbating the health and health care disparities that marginalize our nation’s most vulnerable children. Given the limited resource allocations devoted to these communities, Evermore:
(1) Strongly endorses the prolonged grief disorder (PGD) amendments proposed by Drs. Christopher Layne, Benjamin Oosterhoff, Robert Pynoos and Julie Kaplow for children and adolescents,
(2) Strongly encourages the American Psychiatric Association (APA) to adopt the proposed modification in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) 5-TR, and
(3) Strongly encourages APA to prioritize bereavement education among our nation’s mental health workforce, especially those working with children, youth, and families.
Evermore Outside Witness Testimony for the Record to U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies
Bereavement care is an essential element to any comprehensive public health strategy. Our families require more support, practitioners require more tools and resources, and we must understand more about bereavement. Research not only saves lives, but drives innovation.
Rigorous population-level studies, examining the health behaviors and outcomes of millions of people, have concluded that bereaved parents, siblings, children and spouses are all at risk of premature death as a result of such loss. This is just the tip of the iceberg: bereavement is an underlying driver of the poor health undermining our nation’s health care and social services systems.
Consider the following: Today, ten million American children are bereaved, with two million having lost a parent and a projected eight million having lost a sibling. These uniquely devastating losses alter the lifetime success of these youth. Nearly 90 percent of detained youth have experienced the death of a close loved one and 25 percent subsequently joined a gang. Research studies have found that “bereaved children experience lower self-esteem, reduced resilience, lower grades and more school failures, heightened risk of depression, suicide attempts, suicide, and premature death due to any cause, drug abuse, violent crime involvement, youth delinquency, and a greater number of, and more severe, psychiatric difficulties.”
Congress Should Amend the Family and Medical Leave Act to Make Child Death a Qualifying Reason for Leave and Job Protection
To date, an estimated 20 million Americans have experienced the death of a child. According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, “Studies continue to provide evidence that the greatest stress, and often the most enduring one, occurs for parents who experience the death of a child.” This stress produces untold health, social and economic impacts.
Unfortunately, few supports exist to help grieving parents remain solvent and productive. In most cities and states, employees have no legal protections if they need to take leave following the death of a child. The exact number of employers that offer bereavement leave is not known; in most cases, however, only three days of paid leave are allowed.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act is an appropriate public policy tool to afford some protections to families experiencing the loss of a child. Passage of the Parental Bereavement Act (H.R. 983/S. 559) is advocated to make the death of a son or daughter a qualifying reason for leave under FMLA. The legislation will likely be reintroduced in 2020.