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Paid parental leave a godsend for new parents

Kristin Camarinos can spend quality time with her son, Luke, thanks to paid pareKristin Camarinos can spend quality time with her son, Luke, thanks to paid parental leave the union won for UFT-represented workers.

Kristin Camarinos and her husband were optimistic but anxious when they decided to try for a baby in the fall of 2017.

“I did not know how I was going to be able to afford to stay home with my child without putting our little family into debt,” said Camarinos, a teacher at Scholars’ Academy in Rockaway Park, Queens.

But in June, when she was in her third trimester, “our prayers were answered,” Camarinos said, when the UFT secured paid parental leave for UFT-represented public school employees.

The policy, which took effect on Sept. 4, provides six weeks of time off at full salary for maternity, paternity, adoption and foster care leave. The deal followed months of intense negotiations and was only made possible because of a public campaign by thousands of UFT members.

Camarinos delivered a happy and healthy boy, Luke, on July 22. Under the terms of the agreement, women who gave birth in the summer of 2018 are eligible to take paid parental leave beginning on Sept. 4.

“I can now afford to stay home with him and give him the attention that he not only needs but that he deserves,” she said. “My husband and I are beyond grateful to be one of the first families to receive full paid leave and we know our son is off to an amazing start to his life because of it.”

For the first time, fathers — as well as adoptive and foster parents — are eligible for six weeks of paid leave as well.

“I appreciate the policy taking into consideration nonbirth parents,” said Mark John, a teacher at P 368 in Brooklyn. “My wife and I both work for the Department of Education, so this policy gives us flexibility for how many days we can take and works great for both of us.”

Over the summer, hundreds of UFT members attended workshops in the UFT’s borough offices to learn more about the new policy. Among them was Christine Pollack, an occupational therapist at PS 78 on Staten Island who is expecting a baby in December.

“I’m feeling so relieved,” she said, “that I can stay home with my baby during such a critical time in terms of bonding and development without having to worry about the financial strain of not being paid.”

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