Parents and Caregivers of Children Under 5 “In A Special Kind of Hell Right Now”


Parents and Caregivers of Children Under 5 “In A Special Kind of Hell Right Now”

As Omicron Pushes Parents to Their Breaking Point, Groundwork Ohio Poll Shows Ohio Parents with Children Under 5 Are Under Immense Pressure


COLUMBUS, OH – The COVID-19 pandemic and ongoing child care crisis remain major sources of stress for parents of young children, who rely on access to affordable, quality child care to work. As recent news headlines and polling illustrate, parents and caregivers of children under the age of 5 are “stuck in a grueling limbo” and have hit their “pandemic rock bottom.”


In December, Groundwork Ohio released a statewide poll showing that Ohio parents with children under the age of 5 are under immense pressure, and it’s causing challenges at home and at work. The poll – conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, one of the nation’s leading public opinion research firms – found that nearly half of Ohio parents with children under the age of 5 (47%) have had serious problems meeting work/family responsibilities, serious problems affording child care, or serious problems with child care that have impacted their work in recent months.


Additionally, the statewide survey revealed that the pandemic has taken a toll on the mental health of parents and their young children. According to Groundwork’s poll, the vast majority of Ohio parents with children under the age of 5 (86%) said they have experienced stress from the COVID-19 pandemic, including more than one-third who said it has caused “a lot” of stress for them and their families. Nearly 7 in 10 parents with children under the age of 5 said they are worried about the mental or emotional health of their children.


“The pandemic has been a tipping point for many Ohio families, especially parents and caregivers of our youngest children,” said Chelsea Kiene, Director of Communications & Stakeholder Engagement at Groundwork Ohio. “Parents are telling us that they need quality, affordable child care to go to work and that they are concerned about their children’s mental health. As we approach the third year of this pandemic, policymakers must listen and respond to the challenges these families are facing.”


Recent headlines show the dire predicament facing parents and caregivers of children under 5:


Parents and caregivers of young children say they've hit pandemic rock bottom (NPR, 1/20/22):

  • “The people who take care of and educate children under 5 years old — both parents and providers — are in a special kind of hell right now.”

  • “The child care crisis in the U.S. predates the coronavirus pandemic…Still, as hard as things have been, advocates, parents and early childhood educators like Berg told NPR that January 2022 has been the worst month of the pandemic.”

No Shots, No Day Care: Parents of Kids Under 5 Stuck in Grueling Limbo (The New York Times, 1/14/22)

  • “With child care interruptions mounting, parents of young children have again found themselves sequestered at home, staring out windows, wondering anew if the world cares about the seemingly impossible balancing acts they are having to perform.”

  • “The convergence of repeated closures of day care centers and classrooms with the realization that a vaccine for young children could still be many months away has forced many parents to make uncomfortable choices, particularly women.”

Opinion: I See Signs of Despair From Parents of Kids Under 5 (The New York Times, 1/12/22)

  • “I’ve been talking to parents about pandemic stress for nearly two years, and I haven’t heard the level of despair that I’ve heard over the past week since the spring of 2020. Some of the words parents used to describe their January 2022: ‘devastating,’ ‘disgusting’ and ‘at a breaking point.’ The difference with the Omicron surge is that the upset is more concentrated among parents of children under the age of 5.”

  • “Over and over, parents tell me they feel that children’s needs haven’t been prioritized during the pandemic, that their own health and well-being as parents hasn’t been given enough consideration, and that in many instances they’ve been left with no good options for safe school or child care.”

The Agony of Parents With Kids Under 5 (Slate, 1/11/22)

  • “There is a knife hanging over our heads, as there is for every parent of a kid under 5.”

The parents of the youngest children are not okay (Vox, 1/20/22)

  • “More kids younger than 5 are sick with Covid-19 in the US this month than at any other time in the pandemic. None of these millions of children can be vaccinated yet, and almost half of them are too young to wear a mask. This is bringing a new wave of disruptions and stress for many families — especially those that rely on day care, preschool, and other shared child care — who have already endured almost two years of strain.”

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Groundwork Ohio is a committed, nonpartisan public-policy research and advocacy organization formed in 2004 that champions high-quality early learning and healthy development strategies from the prenatal period to age five, that lay a strong foundation for Ohio kids, families, and communities. Learn more about Groundwork Ohio at groundworkohio.org and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.