NATIONWIDE — A study performed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than 140,000 U.S. children lost either a primary or secondary caregiver due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In the modeling studying, which was published in Oct. 7, 2021 issue of the academic journal, “Pediatrics,” revealed that there is, what the CDC described as, a hidden “orphanhood” caused by the pandemic, emphasizing the urgent necessity to identify and care for these children as part of pandemic response, both during and after the pandemic.
Data was collected between April 1, 2020 and June 30, 2021, which suggests than more than 140,000 (or 1 in 500) American children under the age of 18 years lost a parent, custodial or caregiver grandparent who provided for said child’s basic and home needs (including love, security and daily care).
The data also showed that there were racial, ethnic and geographic disparities, with children of racial and ethnic minorities accounting for 65 percent of those who lost a primary caregiver due to the pandemic.
“Children facing orphanhood as a result of [COVID-19] is a hidden, global pandemic that has sadly not spared the United States,” said CDC Researcher and lead author of the study Susan Hillis. “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 study was performed as a collaboration between the CDC, Harvard and Oxford universities, Imperial College London, and the University of Cape Town (South Africa). It was partly funded by the Imperial College London as well as the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
The study suggests that approximately 120,630 children in the United States lost a primary caregiver during the data collection period and an additional 22,007 lost a secondary caregiver.
“The death of a parental figure is an enormous loss that can reshape a child’s life,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “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.”
Evidence-based responses recommended by the study include:
- Maintaining children in their families as a top priority, including providing support for families bereaved by the pandemic and children in need of services such as foster care are able to rapidly receive said services.
- Bolstering child resilience through programs and policies in order to promote stable, nurturing relationships.
- Strategies must be age-specific and must include sensitivities to racial disparities and structural inequalities.
For further information, the article, entitled “COVID-19-Associated Orphanhood and Caregiver Death in the United States,” featured in the journal, “Pediatrics,” can be found by clicking here or by searching in journal databases for DOI: 10.1542/peds.2021-053760.