A mother is speaking out in favor of better maternity leave policies in the U.S. after her infant son dies at a daycare center.
It was hard for Amber Scorah to leave her son Karl at a daycare center after her three months of maternity leave expired in July, the New York Times reports. Her company wouldn’t allow her to take more time off, even unpaid, and her employer provided health insurance for Scorah, her son and her partner, Lee Towndrow, who works freelance.
The wrenching decision to return to work was one that proved both fateful and fatal. During Karl’s first day of daycare, Scorah returned to breastfeed her son.
“Instead, I saw my son unconscious, splayed out on a soft changing table. His lips and the area around his mouth were blue, and the day-care owner was performing CPR on him, incorrectly,” she wrote in a scorching op-ed published by the New York Times.
“Our sweet son died two and a half hours after the first time I had left him," she added.
Though Scorah was left devastated by the death of her son and the daycare, which was unlicensed, has been shut down, she has bigger questions about the state of maternal leave in the United States.
“Should parents have to play this roulette with their weeks-old infant?" she writes. "To do all they can possibly do to ensure that their baby is safe, only to be relying on a child-care worker’s competence or attentiveness or mood that day?”
Scorah and Towndrow have started advocating for better paid parental leave policies and have launched a campaign called "For Karl."
Though paid parental leave in the state of New York, where Scorah and Towndrow live, isn’t mandatory, the federal Family and Medical Leave Act mandates 12-weeks of job-protected parental leave without a guarantee of pay, Gothamist reported.
“This isn’t an indictment of the company I work for; I had one of the better parental leave policies of anyone I know,” Sorah wrote. “What this article is about is that my infant died in the care of a stranger, when he should have been with me. Our culture demanded it.”
Scorah explained that the social standards in the U.S. dictate that productivity is more important than the welfare of society’s most vulnerable.
“Parental leave reduces infant death, gives us healthier, more well-adjusted adults and helps women stay in the workforce. If we truly valued the 47 percent of the work force who are women, and the value of our families, things would look different,” she wrote, citing research from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, the Journal of Health Economics and the New York Times.
Research also suggests that Scorah is right about the United States, too. According a 2014 study by the International Labor Organization, the U.S. had the shortest maternal leave out of the 41 countries highlighted, including countries like Iceland, which offers just 13 weeks of leave, but with full compensation. Other equally developed nations also offer more time off and financial security, making the U.S. something of an outlier.
Scorah acknowledged that better parental leave policies might not have saved her son, although it remains unclear how he died, according to the New York Times.
“Yes, it’s possible that even in a different system, Karl still might not have lived a day longer, but had he had been with me, where I wanted him, I wouldn’t be sitting here, living with the nearly incapacitating anguish of a question that has no answer,” she wrote.
Still, Scorah says that it falls on parents to “demand more” in order to better care for the next generation.