By Jennifer Jones, director of child and family systems innovation, Alliance

In a recent survey of 3,400 U.S. human resources professionals, the Society for HR Managers found that only 26 percent of companies offer paid maternity leave and 21 percent offer paid paternity leave.

Even more stunning, the U.S. is the only country among 41 nations that does not mandate paid leave for new parents, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Only three states—California, New Jersey, and Rhode Island—have state-mandated paid leave.

These statistics are troubling when one reviews the vast amount of research that shows that policies like paid or partially-paid parental leave help promote healthy development through a child’s early years, creating a foundation for later school achievement, economic productivity, response citizenship, and successful parenting.

While there is encouraging news about paid/partially-paid parental leave, forward-thinking companies such as IKEA, Target, and Netflix are now offering fully or partially paid maternity leave, there is a long way to go.

Just one example of research around healthy brain development and maternity leave is a recent interview by NPR of Dr. Benard Dreyer, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He argued that there is strong evidence showing family leave decreases maternal depression, and research indicates that maternal depression can lead to decreased mother-infant bonding, which can significantly impact a child’s cognitive, social, and emotional development.

The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, through our Change in Mind initiative, believes it is more cost effective to invest in policies that promote and support healthy parent/child interaction and buffer the potential effects of adversity than to later pay for services and programs that treat individuals later in their life. Our Change in Mind initiative has developed Using a Brain Science-Infused Lens in Policy Development, a guide to provide insight and direction to the broader field on using brain science to inform policy.

Fully and partially paid parental leave supports the important and essential relationships between child and parents, and helps ensure strong brain foundations in children. We hope businesses follow the lead of IKEA, Target, Netflix, and others in offering paid/partially-paid maternity leave.