Thuy Bechard and her son, Makai.

There are some fresh faces here in the office at United Way of the Columbia-Willamette. Really fresh.

Our new “Infant at Work” program gives parents the option to bring their baby to work with them until the child is 180-days-old or begins to crawl, whichever comes first.

“In studying the landscape of childhood poverty the last two years, we’ve come across a great deal of research on the importance stable families can play in a child’s development and later success in life,” said Rekah Strong, our Vice President of Equity and Engagement. “We felt we had an opportunity to better support our own employees in this area as well.”

The Parenting Institute touts many benefits for businesses that include increased retention and lower turnover costs, employees returning to work sooner, higher morale and productivity, and increased teamwork and collaboration. Benefits for families including lower daycare costs, better financial stability, increased bonding, lower stress for parents, socialized babies, and a support network for parents.

United Way has taken measures to ensure that employee productivity remains high, with minimal office disturbances. A conference room has been converted into the “Ma and Pa Shop,” where parents may work, nurse or put the baby down for a nap.

Thuy Bechard is the first parent to take advantage of the program. She returned to work this month with her two-month-old son, Makai.

“It has been a real blessing to be able to bring my baby into work with me,” Thuy said. “It is comforting to know that I have full support from the people that I work with and that everyone is happy and eager to help with the baby. To feel that kind of support and encouragement means so much in this day and age when many parents are struggling to have a family and have financial stability.”

Our policy was inspired by a team viewing of "The Raising of America," a documentary that aims to reframe the way we look at early child health and development. United Way of the Columbia-Willamette and Pacific University will host a screening and panel discussion of the film on Monday, May 4, 2015 at Pacific University in the Taylor Meade Performing Arts Center. The event, to be held from 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., is free to the public. Reserve your spot.