For the children: The Breeding Ground social network advocates for family-friendly policies

'The system isn't set up for parents to win'

CINCINNATI -- Gender-neutral paid leave for parents and flexible workplace policies; equality for both parents at home and at work; and more affordable, quality early childhood education options.

If that sounds like your cup of tea, you share some values with a new social network of parents that's rooted here in Cincinnati.

It's called The Breeding Ground, and the network just launched this year. The goal: Create a community with resources for like-minded moms and dads who are passionate about family supportive workplace policies, laws and values in the U.S.

"We're based here locally, but we have a national reach," said founder Rachel Loftspring of Mount Lookout.

The story of The Breeding Ground started before to the birth of Loftspring's daughter, Mila. As an attorney, Loftspring knew her and her husband's jobs would make their new role as parents challenging.

Like most couples expecting a baby, they had started looking into things like paid leave and other policies in place at their jobs. They were also searching for quality day care options here in the Queen City.

"That's when I realized how hard it really is for parents in the U.S.," she explained. "The system isn't set up for parents to win."

A prime example, according to Loftspring: The U.S. does not mandate paid time off for new parents. That's a big problem for a sizable segment of the nation's population, she said.

"There are about 35 million American families with children under 18," she noted. "We're a powerful group, and I felt like if we could all come together, we could make a difference."

Loftspring partnered with some other local parents looking to help make family-friendly change, and The Breeding Ground was born.

The group has created an interactive online platform where registered members can connect with one another by location and interests. Organizers have also created downloadable guides parents can access to educate themselves and others about the cause, including employers and legislators.

"It's all free and has been well-researched," Loftspring said of the online resources. "Busy, working parents can download everything and know it's trustworthy."

The website also offers a blog and discussion forums, where parents can interact and stay up to date on a variety of topics.

Recent discussions on the site address topics like the cost of quality day care, working from home, pump rooms for nursing moms and paid leave for same-sex couples.

"We're starting to see a lot of great chatter on the site," said Matt Berning, who is part of the leadership team. "It's starting to build momentum."

Berning, of Mason, is the owner and creative director of Uplift Studio and a dad with three small children. He donates his time to The Breeding Ground and is responsible for the website's design and development.

"The goal is to give parents the information and tools they need to make a positive difference in their own lives and help make a difference in the lives of others," he said. "As working parents, we don't get enough quality time with our children."

Many of the hot topics on the site are the same ones being discussed across the nation right now, including paid parental leave. Despite the growing divide between Republicans and Democrats, lawmakers from both sides have spoken out about the need of better support for families.

During his campaign, President Donald Trump proposed a plan that would provide paid leave for new mothers. Critics have complained that the plan would leave out fathers as well as mothers who adopt children.

The Washington Post reported last week, however, the Trump administration might be considering a change of course to make it gender-neutral.

Additionally, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., have announced plans to reintroduce the Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act.

The benefits of this legislation are that it is affordable for workers, employers and the government and reflects a modern definition of "family" (in contrast to the maternity leave-only proposal), according to Loftspring. It includes 12 weeks of leave for a full range of personal and family caregiving needs, she said.

As lawmakers consider new policies that could have a big impact on parents, she said she expects to see more people get involved in advocating for positive change.

"Right now, we're trying to get the word out," she said. "We've created a network, but if people don't know we're here, it's not helpful. We want to build our community so it's robust and makes a difference."

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