Can I Use The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) For Taking Time Off For Child With Bipolar Disorder?

My 8 year old was just diagnosed with bipolar and I have been taking so much time off for therapy, to get him from school and other issues. I was wondering if I should apply for FMLA. We work for state government. Now today is the last day of school and he is home with his 2 brothers, and my 16 year old daughter usually babysits but now she is upset because she cant control his episodes and really, she shouldn’t have to. He will go to a summer program but there is a week of nothing before he starts and then 2 weeks after before school is in session, not to mention school breaks. I can’t get anyone to watch him while I work and it is too much for my daughter. I can’t afford to quit because we can not manage a family of 6 on just my husband’s income. I just do not know what to do and I don’t know if FMLA will only cover appointments or will it cover school breaks?


First of all thank you for the question. I think this is a subject that is many times misunderstood and unless you have used FMLA it’s difficult at the best to understand.

My wife and I have a son that has been diagnosed with multiple issues that effect his mental state and status. We too were having issues with his “episodes” that would see that he was dismissed early or sent home for a few days from his school. He had to go to counseling sessions, doctor appointments, etc… He would have to be removed from summer camp and more. We have had our hands full to say the least. Since we did not have anyone who could, or would, help with these issues it was becoming a concern to us at the amount of time my wife was taking off work. She was the one that held the insurance and we could not afford to loose that. We were put in a position where he could not be in the home alone so she was leaving work early daily during the school year, with her bosses blessing, so that our home and animals along with him were safe. During a review with her boss it was brought up that she should look into FMLA. She was working for a large national bank at the time. After some discussion with the HR department and being able to provide information to them from the doctors, it was determined that she could use FMLA to be able to leave early on a daily basis and take the time off as needed due to his “episodes”.

There are certain qualifications that need to be met to use FMLA, such as the total number of hours worked in a year, and these are things that your HR department should be able to fill you in on.

There are some things to keep in mind though. My wife worked in the state of Iowa that was, and is, an at-will employment state. That means that you can leave or your employer can ask you / tell you to leave for no given reason at any given point in time. So if your work is being affected by your time away from the office, you may find that you are removed from your position. They do not need to give a reason for the dismissal and you may collect unemployment, but with the economy as it is you have to give this some thought. I know this goes against what FMLA is suppose to do but we have the paper world and the real world. This is just what happened to my wife and they chose to find another reason to dismiss her according to her employment records but we all knew what had happened and why. Thank the kind Lord I had found employment with insurance about 4 months before this happened.

One other thing that you may want to look into is in our state, Illinois (we live on the boarder that is why we have multiple state information going on here), we have what is called an ICG or individual care grant. This is awarded for people with mental instabilities and issues that effect their day to day lives and those of their caregivers for children 17 and under. We are in the process right now of trying to secure one of these grants and they will allow for one-on-one care for the child along with other methods of caring for them. It’s just a thought you might want to look into. I would seek out your county mental health department and discuss with them if there are services available for him. Many times these services are based on the income of the child and not the parent so as long as he is not working, which you make it sound like he isn’t old enough to do, it is something that income doesn’t matter a great deal on.

I will wish you the best of luck with this. I know it’s an uphill battle, but if you find the right social worker for him, you might be surprised what you can find for him. Services are there it’s just a matter of finding the right people that know what those services are and where to find them along with how to prepare the information so that you get what you are after.

***Sidenote – There is an organization called The Balanced Mind Foundation that can help families in situations like these as well.  They specialize in working with families and children.  Here is their website if you need more info ~Christi***

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