A new online statewide survey by the Fairleigh Dickinson Poll indicates “parents’ use of child care for infants and toddlers is returning to pre-pandemic levels,” said Dr. W. Steven Barnett, Senior Co-Director of the National Institute for Early Education Research. “However, some have not returned to work and continue to worry about whether it is safe for their youngest children to return to child care,” he added. The survey, conducted with support from the Nicholson Foundation, was of parents and guardians of newborns to 3 years old.
Almost two-thirds (65%) said their child is in some sort of formal child care while 35% said their child is not in any type of child care, including 41% of those with household incomes below $50,000.
The main reason for not having children in care was the presence of a stay-at-home parent (54%). But the cost of child care was the key inhibiting factor for 25% and continued concern over COVID-19 was the main reason for 23%.
The pandemic’s toll on parents’ mental health was also explored in the survey: Nearly two-thirds (63%) said their child being out of care for a period during the pandemic added “a lot” or “some” to their stress level. Only half (55%) indicated their level of stress had returned to normal once their child returned to child care.
“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 Barnett. “If New Jersey invests wisely in expanding options for quality child care, including raising child care reimbursement rates if needed to recruit providers, parents, businesses and the state treasury will benefit in the long run.”