Working parents in New Jersey are faced with even greater child-care challenges in districts where the number of religious holidays is rising in order to accommodate growing diversity.

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"School might close, but parents still have to work," said Cecilia Zalkind, president of Advocates for Children of New Jersey. Finding before-school and after-school care is difficult enough without having to come up with a back-up plan, especially for those who don't have a family or friend network they can rely on, Zalkind said.

"There are some website-based informal-like neighborhood groups, so exchange of information with other parents is sometimes helpful, but it's somewhat hit or miss. I think it's a struggle for parents," Zalkind said.

Being forced to call out of work because of child care issues presents challenges, too, especially for parents who work multiple jobs to make ends meet. Zalkind said that last year her agency conducted a survey of businesses leaders around their attitudes toward daycare and education.

"I think the single-most compelling issue for them was child care that enables their employees to come to work and be able to be consistent in work, less absenteeism, etc., but fewer and fewer businesses are providing that child-care assistance. There was a time when there were a number of businesses in New Jersey that actually had onsite child care programs. That still exists, but far fewer than in the past," Zalkind said.

A study released last month found that New Jersey parents on average spend $17,868 a year on child care. 

Contact reporter Dianne DeOliveira at Dianne.DeOliveira@townsquaremedia.com.

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