Poll: The COVID-19 Pandemic Continues to Negatively Impact New Jersey Parents and Child Care

"We are greater than COVID-19."

Parents and guardians of children between newborn to 36 months old are looking primarily to relatives to provide child care 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 child care. The current study finds almost half (45%) indicate care is provided by a relative; 26 percent have their child in a child care center/day care or preschool while 9 percent say a non-relative is providing the care. A third (35%) indicate their child is not currently in any type of child care, including 41 percent of those with household incomes below $50,000. For those who do not currently have their child in a formal child care 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-19 (23%) as key reasons for withholding their infant from any child care.

“This survey finds parents’ use of child care 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 child care,” 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-19 pandemic continues to impact parents of infants and toddlers. Sixty-four percent of those with a child in formal care reported that the child was out of child care at some point since January 1, 2021, due to the COVID-19 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. Thirty-six percent 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 child care.

“The pandemic’s impacts on child care 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 child care 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. Seventy-seven percent of those employed pre-pandemic indicate that their job had been in some way impacted. A third (34%) saw their hours reduced, 19 percent had their wages reduced, while 14 percent report having lost their job, including 26 percent of Blacks and 21 percent of those with household incomes below $50,000. Sixteen percent 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 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.”

Methodology

This study was funded by The Nicholson Foundation and conducted by the FDU Poll. The online survey was designed to provide estimates of adults in New Jersey with children aged 36 months old and younger. Online interviews were conducted May 27th through June 8th, 2021, with 764 adults residing in New Jersey.

This survey used a nonprobability sample source. Market Knowledge Online provided the sample, and individuals included are those who responded to invitations to participate in the survey. The Market Knowledge Online sample was selected based on quotas related to living in New Jersey with children three years old or younger in the household. Surveys were conducted in English and via the web only. For panel recruitment, Market Knowledge Online uses invitations of all types including email invitations, phone alerts, banners, and messaging on panel community sites to include people with a diversity of motivations to take part in research.

To better approximate the known population of New Jersey adults, the data were mathematically weighted to match the known demographics of ethnicity and education.

 

Question wording and order

Q1 For each age category, please indicate how many children, if any, currently live in your household at least half of the time. 

0 to 36 Months : _______  TERMINATE if 0

3 to 5 years : _______

6 to 10 years : _______

11 to 15 years : _______

16 to 18 years : _______

Total : ________

Q14 Other than child care provided by a parent or legal guardian, is this child receiving care on a regular basis (at least once a week) from any of the following? (Check all that apply).

A relative (e.g., grandparent, brother or sister, aunt/uncle)

A day care or child care center, or preschool

A non-relative (not including day care or preschool)

No, none of the above

Q15 Why is your child currently not in any type of childcare?   (Check all that apply.)

One or more parents are currently unemployed

The cost

My spouse/partner cares for them

My child care provider has closed

My child care provider is no longer accepting infants my child’s age

Care quality does not meet my requirements

I am worried about COVID-19 exposure or safety requirements

Made other arrangements for now

I am a stay-at-home parent

Other

Q22 Since January 2021, how many weeks, if any, was your child out of child care due to  the COVID Pandemic (for example, because you felt unsafe sending him/her, the classroom had to quarantine, the center closed due to an outbreak)?

Weeks Out of Care:  _______

Q23 How did you manage when this child was not receiving care? (Select all that apply) (ROTATE)

Used relatives as child care providers

Took time off work to provide child care

Child’s other parent/guardian took time off work to provide child care

I was able to work from home and provide child care

Child’s other parent/guardian was able to work from home and provide child care

Other (Specify)

Q25 Overall, how much does having this child out of formal child care add to your level of stress, if at all?

A lot

Some

Just a little

Not at all

Q26 Has your stress level returned to where it was before your child stopped receiving formal child care?

Yes

No

Q28 Were you employed before the COVID pandemic began (for example, on March 1, 2020)?

Yes, I was employed

No, I was not employed (SKIP TO Q31)

Q29 How did the COVID pandemic impact your employment, if at all? (Select all that apply) ()

I lost my job

I had my hours reduced

My wages were reduced

I worked more hours

My wages were increased

I decided to be a stay-at-home parent

It had no impact

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