More than 140,000 children lost primary or secondary caregiver due to COVID, CDC says


(WFXR) — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is releasing new data that states more than 140,000 children lost a parent, custodial grandparent, or grandparent caregiver due to the pandemic.

The CDC released the information from a new study published in “Pediatrics“. According to the study, “approximately one out of 500 children in the United States has experienced COVID-19 associated orphanhood or death of a grandparent caregiver.”

This data dates from April 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021 for children 18 and under. This study also shows that children of racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 65 percent of the children who lost a primary caregiver because of COVID.

“Children facing orphanhood as a result of COVID is a hidden, global pandemic that has sadly 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 impact of this problem for generations to come. Addressing the loss that these children have experienced – and continue to experience – must be one of our top priorities, and it must be woven into all aspects of our emergency response, both now and in the post-pandemic future.”

The CDC states that “COVID-19 associated deaths” is a combination of deaths caused by the virus and those that were caused indirectly — lockdowns, restrictions on social gatherings, decreased access or quality health care, and of treatment on chronic diseases.

“The death of a parental figure is an enormous loss that can reshape a child’s life. We must work to ensure that all children have access to evidence-based prevention interventions that can help them navigate this trauma, to support their future mental health and wellbeing,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, MD. “At the same time, we must address the many underlying inequities and health disparities that put people of color at greater risk of getting COVID-19 and dying from COVID-19, which puts children of color at a greater risk of losing a parent or caregiver and related adverse effects on their development.”

The CDC also broke down the deaths based on racial and ethnic backgrounds. According to the study from “Pediatrics”, 35 percent of non-Hispanic White children lost a primary caregiver with 51,381 children and 65 percent of children of racial and ethnic minorities lost a primary caregiver with 91,256 children. The CDC states there are quite a few disparities based on the total population with white people representing 61 percent and racial and ethnic minorities representing 39 percent.

The CDC went on to state that California, Texas, and New York had the largest number of children facing COVID-associated death of primary caregivers. These states have large populations according to the CDC. However, when the study looked closer at the geography and race/ethnicity, researchers found that deaths and disparities varied at the state level.

The CDC laid out the percentage of children who lost a primary caregiver based on region. In the southern states between 49 percent and 67 percent were of Hispanic ethnicity. These children live in states along the U.S.-Mexico border. From the southeast, between 45 percent to 57 percent of children were Black. These children live in states such as Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Children with American Indian/Alaska Native who lost their parents live in South Dakota (55 percent), New Mexico (39 percent), Montana (38 percent), Oklahoma (23 percent), and Arizona (18 percent).

The CDC says that there are several ways to help improve outcomes for children who experience the COVID-associated deaths of their caregivers:

  • Children who lose their families must receive support and those needed foster care or kinship must receive services rapidly.
  • Programs and policies that help promote stable, nurturing relationships and address childhood adversity.
  • Age specific strategies for children that are sensitive to racial dispariteis and structural inequalities.

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