Emergency Funds for Mamas on Bed Rest

May 18th, 2010

Last week I had the pleasure to work on behalf  of a mama on bed rest who is in need of funds. This single mama works as a fast food restaurant manager to support herself and her 9 year old son. While working, she began experiencing preterm labor and when she was evaluated her cervix had dilated to 4 cm. She was admitted for observation, but whenever she got up, she would experience preterm labor so she was admitted. She has now been in the hospital since April 26th and isn’t due until August 28th. Unfortunately, her employer benefits are going to run out after 12 weeks but they are trying to cut her off June 1st.

First and foremost I am completely ticked that this woman has to be so concerned about providing for herself, her son and her unborn child. She has worked for her employer for 4 years and states that she typically works 50 hours a week. (No wonder she went into preterm labor!). Yet now in her time of need, she stands to lose her livelihood.

This is not a new scenario. Those of us in the maternity field are constantly sounding the alarms that maternity care benefits in the United States, one of the richest industrialized nations in the world, lag far behind most industrialized nations. The Work, Family, and Equity Index, put out by The Institute for Health and Social Policy at McGill University in 2007 is an update of the original 2004 research looking at the impact of social conditions and health on global working families. The reports look to see how the United States measures up against other nations when it comes to compensation and paid time off. You can read the entire report yourself but suffice it to say that the US fared very poorly when it came to maternity/family leave. Out of 168 nations studied, the US ranked in the bottom 4 for (un) paid maternity leave, sharing the dubious distinction with Liberia, Papau New Guinea and Swaziland. As a result, women in the United States are taking shorter and shorter maternity leaves due to the need to help support their families and to avoid being edged out of job promotions and advancements.

So what is a single mother working at a fast food franchise without benefits and other support to do? If she gets out of bed she is likely to lose her baby. As of June 1st, she is going to lose her job and her benefits. Now what? She did have the forethought to apply for Medicaid benefits before this all happened, so she will receive some health care assistance. But that won’t cover rent, food, utilities or care for her son. What is available to her right now?

In all honesty, there are few if any resources readily available for this Mama in need. After making a few calls, I came into contact with the United Way here in Texas. Their representative Christine informed me that there are some limited community resources available, mostly one time resources available through Catholic Charities. She also gave me the number for food stamps and the local Medicare office. Here are some other local (Texas) charities she shared with me. I am sure that there are similar charities in other areas, so I highly recommend checking out your local United Way for assistance.

Local Charities

  • Catholic Charities: The Gabriel Project. This local charity provides diapers, formula, baby clothes and furniture to families in need.
  • The Austin Pregnancy Resource Center. This case management center assists mamas in need to get pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and to start prenatal care. They also assist women if they choose to put their babies up for adoption to get set up with an agency.

National Foundations

  • The Modest Needs Foundation – This foundation provides small grants for one time emergency expenses to anyone in the United States.
  • Better Bed Rest – This non-profit organization provides modest grants to families in need because mama has gone on pregnancy bed rest. In order to be eligible, Mama must be able to show loss of income and be willing to participate in their peer mentoring program.

Prepare for Pregnancy

As I looked at this situation, I wondered if it could have been avoided-at least from the benefit standpoint. It turns out that a bit of advance preparation may have circumvented much of this scrambling. Now I don’t know if my client’s employer offered short term (or any form) of disability to its employees, or if it was offered and my client was unable to afford to participate. But I called AFLAC (You know, “The Duck” insurance) and spoke with a representative who states that they do in fact provide short term disability policies, but they must be administered through employers. The policies must be in place for 10 months prior to a person becoming disabled.

When I visited the AFLAC website, I saw that individual policies do exist for short term disability as well as for hospitalization, intensive care and various illness and injury circumstances. The great thing about AFLAC and insurers like them is that they pay you directly when you are out of work due to illness or injury and you can use the money for whatever you need-not just for hospital bills. You can get these policies in addition to your employer benefits.

Supplemental insurance and short term disability are out of the question for my client. I truly hope that she will be able to get one of the grants that I was able to find for her. Other mamas on bed rest reading this post may be thinking, “Well shoot, this won’t help me now.” But it will. You may struggle through this pregnancy, but once it is done, take a moment amidst the daze and sleep deprivation, to plan for your next pregnancy. You may not end up on bed rest, but even the time you spend in the hospital to have the baby and the time that you take off for maternity leave are covered benefits for which you can be reimbursed.

If you know of funds available on an emergent basis for mamas and families on pregnancy bed rest, please share the information in the comments section so others may benefit.

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