According to CDC researchers, more than 140,000 US children have lost a parent or grandparent who cares for them to Covid-19, accounting for up to one in every 500 US children. The CDC-led team discovered that children from racial and ethnic minorities were far more likely to lose such a caregiver.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse, which funded the study, stated that the findings show orphanhood as a hidden and ongoing secondary tragedy caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and that identifying and caring for these children throughout their development is a necessary and urgent part of the pandemic response – both during the pandemic and afterward.
Death of Primary Caregivers
According to National Center for Health Statistics data through June, children of racial and ethnic minorities made up 65 percent of those who lost a primary caregiver, while White children made up 35 percent, despite the fact that minorities make up only 39 percent of the US population.
According to the findings published in the Journal Pediatrics, 120,630 children in the United States lost a primary caregiver, including parents and grandparents who provided basic needs, due to COVID-19-related death during the 15-month pandemic.
In addition, 22,007 children lost secondary caregivers, bringing the total number of children who lost primary or secondary caregivers to 142,637. According to the researchers, secondary caregivers were mostly grandparents who provided love, security, or basic care.
Children in southern border states were the hardest hit, with Hispanic children accounting for anywhere from 50 percent to 67 percent of those affected.
In the southeastern states, up to 57 percent of affected children were Black. In states with tribal territories, up to 55 percent of children who lost a parent or other primary caregiver to Covid-19 were American Indian/Alaska Native.
Loss of Primary Caregiver
Susan Hillis of the CDC and her colleagues wrote that, in addition to parents, grandparents are becoming increasingly important, often providing basic needs. From 2011 to 2019, 10% of children in the United States lived with a grandparent, and in 2019, 4.5 million children lived with a grandparent who provided their housing.
Children of color, Hispanics, and Asians are twice as likely as White children to live with a grandparent.
“Loss of parents is associated with mental health problems, shorter schooling, lower self-esteem, sexual risk behaviors, and risks of suicide, violence, sexual abuse, and exploitation,” they added.
But they added that there is, however, hope. Children and families can be negatively impacted by Covid-19-related orphanhood and caregiver death if safe and effective vaccines are available.
Even losing one parent or grandparent can be devastating for children, especially those in vulnerable situations where they risk losing their homes, being abused, or falling into poverty. Children facing orphanhood as a result of Covid, according to Hillis, are victims of a hidden global pandemic that has sadly not spared the United States.
According to Charles Nelson, a researcher at Boston Children’s Hospital who studies the effects of adversity on development, children who have lost a parent or caregiver must have access to the support services they require, and that this additional impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is comprehensively addressed in both rapid response and overall public health response.
The researchers said government need to pay close attention to the affected children.
Hillis and colleagues published a study in the Lancet medical journal in July that revealed 1.1 million children worldwide had lost a parent to Covid-19 by April, and 1.5 million had lost either a parent, a grandparent or another relative who helped care for them.