In North Carolina, it is beyond time to recognize and support the diverse and dynamic structures that define our families.  A critical step in this direction is the implementation of paid family and medical leave laws and paid sick and safe days laws that acknowledge and account for the reality of family structures.   

The Importance of Chosen Family 

Chosen family — those who we consider family outside of traditional blood or marriage ties — plays a crucial role in the lives of many North Carolinians. An AARP 2021 study found that 48 million people in the U.S. provide unpaid care to friends or family members, with nearly 80% of them incurring routine expense. This Pride Month, we highlight the need for the Caring for All Families Act as a crucial step toward ensuring everyone can care for their loved ones, offering essential support for people whose main support networks are friends, community members, or other close relationships. This concept is especially significant for LGBTQIA+ communities, disabled individuals, BIPOC communities, immigrants, rural families, service members, and families affected by incarceration. These groups often rely on networks of chosen family for caregiving, transportation to medical care, and day-to-day assistance. 

Current Challenges  

Unfortunately, the existing framework of family leave policies is overly restrictive, often failing to accommodate the realities of modern family dynamics reflected in today’s needs.  

Workers who need to care for a sick friend, a long-term partner not recognized by law, or a community member who has become like family are left without the support they need. This gap in policy not only undermines the well-being of individuals but also places undue stress on workers who must choose between their job and their loved ones. No one should have to choose between working and caring for a loved one in need.  

It’s Time for Inclusive Paid Leave Policies 

It is time for North Carolina to lead the way by adopting inclusive paid family and medical leave laws and paid sick and safe day laws. Such policies should explicitly allow workers to use their leave to care for chosen and extended family members. This change would: 

  1. Promote Equity: Inclusive family definitions ensure that all workers, regardless of their family structure, have the support they need. This is particularly vital for marginalized communities who often rely on chosen family for support. 
  1. Enhance Public Health: Allowing workers to take time off to care for loved ones helps prevent the spread of illness and supports the overall health of the community. 
  1. Boost Economic Stability: When workers can take paid leave to address family health needs, they are more likely to remain in the workforce and less likely to face financial hardship. 
  1. Strengthen Community Bonds: Recognizing and supporting diverse family structures fosters stronger, more resilient communities. 

Let’s act now to build a more inclusive, equitable, and compassionate future for all North Carolinians.  

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