December 9, 2021, Washington, D.C. The COVID-19 pandemic has been the single deadliest acute public health crisis in American history. More than 760,000 Americans have died in 22 short months, many leaving behind children who have lost a caretaker, role model, and provider. Today, COVID Collaborative and Social Policy Analytics released a report estimating that 167,082 children – roughly one of every 450 – in the United States lost a parent or other caregiver in the home to COVID-19, and offering a roadmap to support and provide for these children in their most vulnerable moments.
Non-White children lost caregiving adults at higher rates than their White peers, with American Indian and Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander children experiencing the highest rate of loss at nearly four times that of White children. Black and Hispanic children experienced more than twice the rate of loss of White children. Youth in every state experienced loss, but California, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Texas accounted for half of total caregiver loss from COVID-19. Seventy percent of caregiver loss affected those 13 and younger. Half of COVID-bereaved children (83,798) were elementary and middle-school age (5-13 years old) and 20 percent (34,150) were from birth to 4 years old.
“As the nation looks to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is an urgent need to address the crisis of children left behind,” said John Bridgeland, Co-Founder and CEO of COVID Collaborative. “For these children, their whole sky has fallen, and supporting them through this trauma must be a top priority. Today’s report is a rallying cry for the nation to help the children who have lost parents and other caregivers to COVID-19.”
“The children most likely to lose a caregiver to COVID-19 are also most likely to have faced previous adversities that hinder their ability to cope and show resilience,” said Dan Treglia, co-author of the report and Associate Professor of Practice at the University of Pennsylvania. “They are dealing with personal tragedies in the midst of national uncertainty, stress, and turmoil, and leaders face a responsibility to support COVID-bereaved children and their remaining caregivers to maximize their chances of resilience and success.”
Children and adolescents depend on their caregivers for financial, emotional, and developmental support, and the death of a parent or caregiver can hinder a child’s development and success for the rest of their lives. The impacts of losing one or both parents can include anxiety, depression, PTSD, substance abuse, suicide, poor academic outcomes, increased rates of high school dropout, economic turmoil, and general instability.
Policymakers, educators, nonprofits, and the private sector can take steps to help children and youth to address their grief and trauma. The report outlines recommendations, including evidence-based policies, programs, and practices to address grief and trauma. The report recommends: concerted efforts within schools, health care, and faith-based communities to identify and connect children and families to supports; a COVID-Bereaved Children’s Fund; expanding access to high-quality early childhood programming and social and emotional learning in schools; structured mentoring, peer support, and grief camps; expansion of mental health care; and executive action from the federal government to support these children now.
“The consequences of losing a parent can persist throughout a child’s lifetime,” said Governors Dirk Kempthorne and Deval Patrick, Co-Chairs of COVID Collaborative, in a joint statement. “As a compassionate nation, America must provide the support these children need during this time of great challenge.”
The report, Hidden Pain: Children Who Lost a Parent or Caregiver to COVID-19 and What the Nation Can Do to Help Them is available on COVIDCollaborative.us
Press release initially posted to COVID Collaborative. COVID Collaborative is mobilizing government, non-profit, and private sector partners to support the hundreds of thousands of children in the United States who have lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19. In December 2021, they released Hidden Pain: Children Who Lost a Parent or Caretaker to COVID-19 and What the Nation Can Do to Help Them, a report providing first of their kind estimates of the number of children who lost a caregiver and concrete recommendations to support them.