Study: More than 140,000 children lost a parent of caregiver from COVID

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(NEWS10) — A new study shows that one child in the United States loses a parent or caregiver for every four COVID-19 deaths. The study published in “Pediatrics,” the official journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics, also shows disparities in caregiver deaths by race and ethnicity.

From April 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021, the data suggests that more than 140,000 children under age 18 lost a parent, custodial grandparent, or grandparent caregiver who provided the child’s home and basic needs. The study shows that almost 1 out of 500 children in the United States has experienced COVID-associated orphanhood.

“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.”

The study found that children who experienced orphanhood or death of caregivers varied by race and ethnicity:

  • 1 of every 168 American Indian/Alaska Native children
  • 1 of every 310 Black children
  • 1 of every 412 Hispanic children
  • 1 of every 612 Asian children
  • 1 of every 753 White children

Study results showed that non-Hispanic White children account for 35% of those who lost a caregiver, while children of racial and ethnic minorities account for 65%.

“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,” said Hillis.

The study said loss of a parent is among the adverse childhood experiences linked to mental health problems, shorter schooling, lower self-esteem, sexual risk behaviors and increased risk of substance abuse, suicide, violence, sexual abuse, and exploitation.

Researchers gave advice on how to improve the outcomes for children who experience COVID-associated death of loved ones:

  • Supporting families affected by the pandemic
  • Strengthening economic support to families
  • Quality childcare and educational support
  • Programs to improve parenting skills and family relationships

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