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More Arizona employees can bring babies to work under pilot program

(Flickr/David J Laporte)

PHOENIX — A program that allows some Arizona employees to bring their newborn babies to work has now expanded to a new state department.

The Infant at Work program allows Arizona employees — both mothers and fathers — to bring their newborn children to work for the first six months of their lives or until the child starts to crawl.

The program is now available for Department of Child Services workers who work out of the central office in Phoenix. Employees who are out in the field, like case workers, are not able to participate in the program.

Dr. Cara Christ, director of the Arizona Department of Health Services, said the program began in 2001 to allow mothers who wanted to continue breastfeeding to bring their babies to work.

The program soon expanded to all moms, dads, foster parents and other guardians.

Gov. Doug Ducey vowed to expand it during his State of the State address this year. It is currently active in 10 state agencies and more than 250 babies have graduated from the program.

Ducey said that he pushed for the expansion because he doesn’t want parents to choose between having a career and having a family — and he doesn’t want them to feel as if their jobs are threatened if they decide to have a family.

“[Parents] want to take care of their kids, but they love their career as well,” he said. “We don’t want it where they have to make, necessarily, the choice for one or the other.”

Darren Duranco, a spokesman for the Department of Child Safety, said several of the agency’s employees who were expecting last year sat down with Director Greg McKay to talk about the possible expansion.

Duranco said McKay was on board with the pilot program since it allows employees to bond with their newborns while still being productive at work.

“It minimizes the stress that all parents face between coming to work or being a stay-at-home parent,” he said.

Arizona employees only have 12 weeks of unpaid maternity leave and Duranco said this program will allow workers with newborns to get back into the workforce quicker.

And the program does not only benefit the parents, Duranco said, it benefits the entire office. Duranco said the presence of a baby uplifts everyone’s mood and morale.

“We hope to roll this program out more in the future,” he said.

KTAR News’ Bob McClay, Corbin Carson and Ali Vetnar contributed to this report. 

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