Circadian Technologies, Inc.'s 2002 Shiftwork Practices Survey finds that just two percent of companies subsidized child care, and 69 percent had no idea whether 24-hour child care was available in their area.

Certain businesses, including the armed forces, have addressed the issue by providing on-site child care - and reduced absenteeism, turnover and recruitment costs in the process.

The issue has safety implications: A four-month-old boy died after his 18-year-old mother left him in her car overnight while she worked as a floor cleaner. Charges have not yet been filed against the mother, who left the child asleep in a makeshift bed, but detectives are investigating the death.

And at this time last year, Rosemarie Radovan, 31, was sentenced to three months in jail and five years of probation for felony child endangerment. Radovan had repeatedly left her two young children in the trunk of her car while she worked the night shift at a Silicon Valley computer company.

These cases demonstrate a difficulty faced by thousands of parents who work nights: finding child care during the overnight hours, according to Jennifer Allen of CTI. Though the need for extended-hour child care has been increasing for decades, most communities have yet to find a solution. The issue is not even on the radar screens of most managers of 24-hour operations, says Allen.