On March 29, 2023 the Congressional Dad’s Caucus had its kickoff meeting with a panel of lived experience. Representative Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), the Chair and Founder of the Dad’s Caucus, opened the discussion by highlighting the importance of “family friendly” policy. Several other congressmen offered their support, including Representative Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), founder of the Congressional Mama’s Caucus. Panelists shared their personal experiences trying to balance work and family obligations. Ultimately, panelists indicated that federal policy is not doing enough to help families, leaving the struggle to be the norm and not the exception.

There were three key elements that congressmen and panelists pointed out as vital in helping families. These being the expanded child tax credit, paid family leave, and child care. Currently, paid family leave bills and the child tax credit are not equitable for the lowest income families. Panelists discussed that many families do not earn enough to owe taxes, thus eliminating them from the credit. Additionally, paid leave is not an option for many low-income families. If it is, it is often at the expense of wage cuts, or puts the ability to return to their job at their previous status in peril. Moreover, when paid leave is available, it is often exclusive to the mother. Fathers should have the same opportunity to have paid time off and should be considered equivalent caregivers. Representative Gomez stated that parenting is a partnership and policy must be reflect this. The expanded child tax credit made vast improvements when it was implemented, allowing families to provide basic necessities and reduce hardships, all while having no negative impact upon employment. However, this expansion has now expired. Panelists indicated that paid parental leave and tax credits are life savers when it comes to caring for a child.

Parents are forced to choose between their careers or caring for their children due to the lack of affordable and quality childcare. Not only would improving the child care system help families, but it would also aid the economy by keeping parents in the workforce. Without paid leave or financial assistance from the government, families are left to struggle. The Dad’s Caucus hopes to implement policy that is supportive, functional, and vast to help all American families.

By Olivia LaMarco, Policy Intern