Paid parental leave, a new day in DeSoto and in Texas

Candice Quarles
Candice Quarles

DeSoto City Council

It gives me such great pride to say that as of this past month, DeSoto is the first city in North Texas to guarantee paid parental leave for city employees. It’s been a long road to get here.

When I first brought this matter to the DeSoto City Council’s attention in 2017, I knew it would be a pretty progressive initiative. Yet, at the same time, it was so clearly the right thing to do for our new moms, our dads, our families and our whole city.

I am so proud that DeSoto stands as a shining example for other cities around Texas and across the country.

With a unanimous City Council vote in favor of this measure, city employees will now receive three weeks of paid time off of work after the birth, adoption or foster of a child. It comes not a moment too soon, because all new parents deserve the essential and doctor-recommended time off to bond with their babies.

This policy is an important part of our much larger task: fixing a broken system where new parents are forced to piece together vacation time, sick time and unpaid time off from work just to get a bare minimum of time with their newborns.

This issue is personal for me and so many others. My husband and I have a 4-year-old, and I enjoyed the crucial bonding time after she was born. But it wasn’t a simple thing to do.

Due to early contractions at 33 weeks, I was restricted to bed rest prior to the birth of my daughter, so I used the majority of my sick and vacation time before she was born.

My company had a designated maternity leave of 12 weeks, so I had some time with her before putting her into daycare. Even if all goes well in a pregnancy, we should allow new moms and dads the all-important time to care, nurture and bond with their child. Anything less is putting our women and families at risk.

Before we took the vote in DeSoto City Council to pass the paid parental leave measure, we heard lots of moving testimony from people encouraging us to support the policy.

One of those who gave testimony was my good friend and fellow local elected official Candace Valenzuela, a school board trustee in Carrollton-Farmers Branch Independent School District.

With her young son Henry Jacinto in her arms, Valenzuela spoke powerfully about how important paid leave is for new parents, local communities and our city.

“Children are not a luxury item; children are an investment in the long-term care and growth of a city. If your city employees are setting an example for that, you’re going to have sustainable growth for generations.”

The United States is the only industrialized country in the world that doesn’t guarantee paid family leave for its citizens. But we can do better. I’m hopeful that our efforts in DeSoto will spark a wave of paid parental leave policies throughout North Texas, our whole state and, indeed, the country.

But it shouldn’t stop at just paid parental leave. We deserve nothing less than the adequate paid family leave we need to bond with our babies, recuperate from illness, and take care of our loved ones.

Some will undoubtedly say these policies cost too much or that they benefit some people over others. But the truth is that all of us benefit from paid parental and family leave. It makes our families healthier, our employees happier, and our community stronger.

And these policies are even a win for business. As all businesses are in need of top talent, it can be a great recruiting tool for someone looking to start a family oneday.

This is why many major corporations – Southwest Airlines, Facebook, Bank of America, among others – provide generous paid family leave policies already.

This spring, we celebrate paid parental leave coming to DeSoto. This year, I hope to join my fellow City Council colleagues in cities around the state and the country in celebrating similar policies.

We owe it to all the new moms and dads out there, and there’s no reason our local governments can’t take the lead.

Candice Quarles is a member of the DeSoto City Council, where she represents Place 6.


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