More than 140,000 American children have lost a primary or secondary guardian due to the COVID-19 pandemic
Thursday, October 7, 2021
New study highlights sharp disparities in caregiver deaths by race and ethnicity, calls for urgent public health response.
U.S. child loses parent or guardian in four deaths from COVID-19, new modeling study released today in Pediatrics reveals. The findings illustrate the orphanage as a hidden and continuing secondary tragedy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and underscore that identifying and caring for these children throughout their development is a necessary and urgent part of the response. to the pandemic – both as long as the pandemic continues, as well as in the post-pandemic era.
From April 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021, data suggests that more than 140,000 children under the age of 18 in the United States have lost a parent, custodial grandparent, or grandparent who looked after their home. the child and his basic needs, including love, safety and daily care. Overall, the study shows that about 1 in 500 children in the United States have experienced an orphanage or grandparent death associated with COVID-19. There were racial, ethnic and geographic disparities in caregiver deaths associated with COVID-19: Racial and ethnic minority children made up 65% of those who lost a primary caregiver due to the pandemic.
Children’s lives are permanently changed by the loss of a mother, father or grandparent who provided their home, basic needs and care. The loss of a parent is part of the negative childhood experiences (ACE) related to mental health problems; shorter schooling; low self-esteem; risky sexual behavior; and an increased risk of drug addiction, suicide, violence, sexual abuse and exploitation.
“Children facing the orphanage due to COVID are a hidden global pandemic that has unfortunately not spared the United States,” said Susan Hillis, CDC researcher and lead author of the study. “All of us – especially our children – will feel the serious immediate and long-term repercussions of this problem for generations to come. Addressing the loss these children have suffered – and continue to suffer – must be one of our top priorities, and it must be integrated into all aspects of our emergency response, both now and in the post future. -pandemic. “
The study was a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Imperial College London, Harvard University, the University of Oxford and the University of Cape Town, South Africa. Published in the October 7 issue of the journal Pediatrics, it was jointly led by the COVID response of the CDC and Imperial College London, and partly funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), as well as by Imperial College London.
“The scale of young people affected is a sobering reminder of the devastating impact of the past 18 months,” said Dr Alexandra Blenkinsop, co-principal investigator at Imperial College London. “These findings really highlight the children who have been made the most vulnerable by the pandemic, and where additional resources should be directed.”
The analysis used mortality, fertility and census data to estimate the number of orphans associated with COVID-19 (death of one or both parents) and the deaths of custodial grandparents and co-residents between April 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, for the United States at large and for each state. “Deaths associated with COVID-19” refers to the combination of deaths caused directly by COVID-19 and those caused indirectly by associated causes, such as blockades, restrictions on gatherings and movements, decreased access or the quality of health care and treatment of chronic diseases. diseases. Data was also separated and analyzed by race and ethnicity, including White, Black, Asian, and Native / Native Alaskan populations, and Hispanic and non-Hispanic populations.
The study authors estimate that 120,630 children in the United States have lost a primary caregiver (a parent or grandparent responsible for providing housing, basic needs and care) due to death. associated with COVID-19. In addition, 22,007 children suffered the death of a secondary guardian (the grandparents providing housing but not the most basic needs). Overall, an estimated 142,637 children have suffered the death of at least one parent, guardian or other co-resident grandparent.
“The death of a parent figure is a huge loss that can reshape the life of a child. We need to ensure that all children have access to evidence-based prevention interventions that can help them overcome this trauma, to support their future mental health and well-being, ”said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD. “At the same time, we need to tackle the many underlying inequalities and health disparities that put people of color at increased risk of contracting COVID-19 and dying from COVID-19, which puts children of color at increased risk of losing a parent or caregiver and the associated adverse effects on their development.
Racial and ethnic disparities in the loss of caregivers linked to COVID
There were significant racial and ethnic disparities in caregiver deaths from COVID-19. Whites make up 61% of the total population of the United States, and people from racial and ethnic minorities make up 39% of the total population. Still, study results indicate that non-Hispanic white children make up 35% of those who have lost a primary caregiver (51,381 children), while racial and ethnic minority children make up 65% of those who have lost a primary caregiver (51,381 children). primary caregiver (91,256 children).
Looking at both primary and secondary caregivers, the study found that results varied widely by race / ethnicity: 1 in 168 Native American / Alaskan children, 1 in 310 black children, 1 in 412 Hispanic children, 1 in 612 Asian children and 1 in 753 white children have experienced orphanage or the death of their caregivers. Compared to white children, Native American / Alaska Native children were 4.5 times more likely to lose a parent or grandparent, black children were 2.4 times more likely, and Hispanic children were nearly 2 times (1.8) more likely.
Overall, the high-population states – California, Texas and New York – had the highest number of children facing COVID-19-associated death of primary caregivers. However, when analyzed by geography and race / ethnicity, the authors were able to map how these deaths and disparities varied at the state level.
In southern states along the US-Mexico border, including New Mexico, Texas, and California, between 49% and 67% of children who have lost a primary caregiver were of Hispanic origin. . In southeast Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, between 45% and 57% of children who lost a primary caregiver were black. And Native American / Alaska Native children who lost a primary guardian were more frequently represented in South Dakota (55%), New Mexico (39%), Montana (38%), Oklahoma ( 23%) and Arizona (18%).
This study closely follows a similar study Posted in The Lancet in July 2021, which revealed that more than 1.5 million children worldwide have lost a primary or secondary guardian in the first 14 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. In the global and US studies, researchers have used UNICEF’s definition of orphanage, as including the death of one or both parents.6. The definition includes children who lose a parent because they are at increased risk for mental health problems, abuse, unstable housing and household poverty. For children raised by single parents, the death associated with COVID-19 of that parent may represent the loss of the person primarily responsible for providing love, safety and daily care.
“We often think of the impact of COVID-19 in terms of the number of lives claimed by the disease, but as this study shows, it is essential to also address the broader impact – both in terms of people deceased and deceased persons. who were left behind, ”said study co-author Charles A. Nelson III, PhD. who studies the effects of adversity on brain development and behavior at Boston Children’s Hospital. “We need to ensure that children who have lost a parent or guardian have access to the support services they need, and that this additional impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is comprehensively addressed both in our rapid response and in our comprehensive public health response. “
There are evidence-based answers that may improve outcomes for children who experience the COVID-associated death of their guardians:
- Keeping children in their families is a priority. This means that families bereaved by the pandemic must be supported and that those in need of parents or foster families must receive services quickly.
- Children’s resilience can be strengthened through programs and policies that promote stable and nurturing relationships and address childhood adversity. Key strategies include:
- Strengthening economic support for families.
- Quality child care and school support.
- Evidence-based programs to improve parenting skills and family relationships.
- All strategies must be appropriate for the age of the children and must be sensitive to racial and structural disparities. They must reach the children who need them most.
In the final words of the document, “Effective action to reduce health disparities and protect children from direct and secondary damage from COVID-19 is a public health and moral imperative. “
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