Parents and guardians of children between newborn to 36 months old are looking primarily to relatives to provide childcare support. According to a new online statewide survey conducted by The Fairleigh Dickinson Poll, with support from The Nicholson Foundation, nearly 2 in 3 (65%) indicate their child under 36 months is in some sort of formal childcare. The current study finds almost half (45%) indicate care is provided by a relative; 26% have their child in a childcare center/day care or preschool while 9% say a non-relative is providing the care. A third (35%) indicate their child is not currently in any type of childcare, including 41% of those with household incomes below $50,000.
For those who do not currently have their child in a formal childcare arrangement, the top reason is they are a stay-at-home parent (54%). Parents also cite the cost of care (25%) and a continued concern about COVID (23%) as key reasons for withholding their infant from any childcare.
“This survey finds parents’ use of childcare for infants and toddlers is returning to pre-pandemic levels. However, some have not returned to work and continue to worry about whether it is safe for their youngest children to return to childcare,” said Dr. W. Steven Barnett, senior co-director of the National Institute for Early Education Research (NIEER). “New Jersey faces a unique opportunity to invest stimulus dollars in ways that support parents’ access to quality infant-toddler care.”
The COVID pandemic continues to impact parents of infants and toddlers. 64% of those with a child in formal care reported that the child was out of childcare at some point since January 1, 2021, due to the COVID pandemic, with the average time missed at 5.9 weeks. To manage this change, a plurality (38%) of these parents indicated they were able to work from home while their child was out of care. 36% said they needed to take time off from work to provide care for their child.
The pandemic also has taken a toll on parents’ mental health, as nearly two-thirds (63%) indicate their child being out of care for the time period added ‘a lot’ or ‘some’ to their stress level. Only half (55%) indicated their stress has returned to normal once their child returned to childcare.
“The pandemic’s impacts on childcare and its unpredictability is predictably stressful for many parents,” said Dr. Allison Friedman-Krauss, assistant research professor at NIEER. “I hope that the increased realization of the importance of childcare to families and work brought about by the pandemic will result in much needed change.”
Finally, the COVID pandemic had a tremendous impact on New Jersey parents’ employment. 77% of those employed pre-pandemic indicate that their job had been in some way impacted. A third (34%) saw their hours reduced, 19% had their wages reduced, while 14% report having lost their job, including 26% of Blacks and 21% of those with household incomes below $50,000. 16% have decided to leave the workforce and become stay-at-home parents.
“A post-pandemic economic boom will put pressure on labor markets, and employers may find it increasingly difficult to attract the workers they need,” said Dr. Barnett. “If New Jersey invests wisely in expanding options for quality childcare, including raising childcare reimbursement rates if needed to recruit providers, parents, businesses and the state treasury will benefit in the long run.”
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