Four in ten caregivers find themselves in high-burden sandwich situations, juggling a career, childcare and eldercare responsibilities. In the absence of viable childcare options, mothers in particular are often forced to change their working hours, settle for lesser quality care or drop out of the labor market altogether, a decision that can put jeopardize their family’s financial security.
Following the White House proclamation designating April as Social Worker Recognition Month last Tuesday, an executive order from President Biden was signed containing a wide range of actions to improve the care economy. . The executive order includes more than 50 directives to nearly every cabinet-level agency to expand access to affordable, high-quality care and provide support to social workers and family caregivers.
“Care makes all work possible and supports our economy. We applaud the actions of the Biden/Harris administration today. Now we expect Congress to act as well. We can’t wait any longer for the care infrastructure our country needs,” says Kristin Rowe-Finkbeiner, Executive Director and CEO of MomsRising.
There are more than 53 million unpaid caregivers in the United States. Nearly three-quarters of workers are caring for a child, parent, friend, disabled adult child or neighbour. Many people don’t see themselves as caregivers, even though they provide care on a regular basis. Historically, care has been seen as an individual responsibility, typically falling disproportionately on women. Care sector organizations applauded the initiative.
“Yesterday we witnessed history,” said Jenn Stowe, executive director of the National Domestic Workers Alliance. “We have seen President Biden announce the most comprehensive set of executive measures a president has ever taken to make care more affordable and accessible for hard-working families while supporting social workers and family caregivers. The decree will make care more affordable, improve the quality of employment for social workers, provide better support for family carers and advance the rights of domestic workers.
“We are encouraged by the actions of the Biden administration to expand and ensure access to affordable child care for families. Continued investments to protect and provide resources to children and families, especially single mothers, will help lift them from poverty to prosperity. This is an important first step, and we look forward to seeing continued commitment and action to ensure that mothers and their children no longer need to struggle,” says Chastity Lord, President and CEO. director of the Jeremiah program.
But while the executive order’s guidelines support the care economy, it does not mention providing mental health support to caregivers. Millions of Americans take care of their child and elder care responsibilities every day in addition to their jobs. This can have negative effects on the physical and mental health of caregivers who often do not have access to much-needed support and resources. In fact, nearly one-third of employee caregivers have voluntarily left a job at some point in their career due to their caregiving responsibilities.
For some caregivers, especially working mothers, mental health support is arguably just as essential. Legislation continues to extend and expand telehealth services for rural health, behavioral health, and telehealth access options amid the COVID-19 public health emergency, but primarily for beneficiaries of Medicare. When the COVID-19 public health emergency expires on May 11, some mothers will once again have limited access to telehealth (as it will no longer be an excluded benefit).
Unfortunately, 75% of women who experience maternal mental health symptoms go untreated, impacting their ability to provide care for others. Conditions include depression, anxiety disorders, obsessive-compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar illness (which may include psychotic symptoms), and substance use disorders.
“We will continue to work to ensure Congress hears the voices of mothers and advocates for our nation. Maternal mental health cannot be ignored,” says Adrienne Griffen, executive director of the Maternal Mental Health Leadership Alliance.