Many NJ children not in little one care over COVID-19 fears

A new nationwide online survey from the Fairleigh-Dickinson Survey shows “Parental use of childcare for infants and young children 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 childcare,” he added. The survey, conducted with the support of the Nicholson Foundation, was aimed at parents and guardians of newborns up to 3 years of age.

Almost two-thirds (65%) said their child was in some form of formal childcare, while 35% said their child was not in some form of childcare, including 41% of those with a household income below $ 50,000.

The main reason for lack of care for children was the presence of a stay-at-home parent (54%). But childcare costs were the top inhibitor for 25% and ongoing concerns about COVID-19 was the top driver for 23%.

The effects of the pandemic on the mental health of parents were also examined in the survey: Almost two thirds (63%) said that their child, who had not been cared for for a while during the pandemic, said “a lot” or “a little” contributed to their stress levels. Only half (55%) stated that their stress level returned to normal after the child returned to childcare.

“A post-pandemic economic boom will put pressure on labor markets and it could become increasingly difficult for employers to attract the workforce they need,” said Barnett. “If New Jersey invests wisely in expanding its options for quality childcare, including increasing childcare reimbursement rates if necessary to recruit providers, it will benefit parents, businesses, and the Treasury in the long term.”

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