You’ve heard the phrase real life imitating art. Writing this is like real life imitating news.

Just as I’m in the middle of a desperate search for qualified in-home childcare comes this report. There is a big shortage of childcare available for kids who need it in almost all counties in the Garden State.

The three counties where it’s hardest to find childcare are:

Middlesex County

Statewide in 2021, between childcare centers and home-based childcare locations their maximum capacity was 392,600 for kids under five, yet there were 519,000 kids under five that same year.

A good amount of those nearly 130,000 children have families needing childcare and simply can't find it.

Ocean County’s deficit was the biggest with 31,000 children more than spaces available.

At the end of 2021 there were 4,038 licensed childcare centers and 1,190 registered home-based childcare locations in New Jersey. But the problem that started with the pandemic has continued to this day in the years since these numbers were recorded.

They can’t find staff.

Empty Classroom

Daycare and pre-school classrooms are sitting empty because people have abandoned the profession. If you are lucky enough to find center-based care the cost is a problem.

The average annual cost in 2021 was $12,700. That represents a full 9% of a married couple’s median income and a whopping 34% of a single mother’s income.

father and little daughter go to school or daycare, education and learning

Mary Coogan is with the nonprofit Advocates for Children in New Jersey and says it’s reached a crisis point.

If people can’t get to work, have to call out, have to leave early, that impacts business ... Everybody has a stake in this,” said Coogan.

The only two counties where more childcare spots are available than the number of children under five are Hunterdon and Somerset. I live in Hunterdon. But that’s not helping me.

My situation is different because my kids are six and seven and both boys have autism. I just lost my caregiver of the past 11 years who started with me when my teens were little.

The mad scramble I’m in to find someone to watch them in my home from when they get off the school bus until I get home from work at 7:30 is made extra difficult because most people don’t want to or don’t know how to work with children on the spectrum.

This is a challenging time for many working parents, especially us single ones. I feel your pain.

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Opinions expressed in the post above are those of New Jersey 101.5 talk show host Jeff Deminski only.

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