Meer as 140,000 US children lost a parent or caregiver to Covid, studie bevind

While the US has been engulfed in a heated battle to prevent people from contracting and dying from Covid-19, another pandemic has been raging behind closed doors among children who have lost one or both parents, or their caregivers, to Covid.

A new studeer, published on Thursday in the journal Pediatrics, estimated that from April 2020 through 30 June this year, meer as 140,000 children under the age of 18 lost their mother, father, or grandparent who provided their housing, basic needs and daily care to the disease.

The study reveals that Covid is not only disproportionately killing adults from communities of color, but the children in these communities are bearing the brunt of the aftershock of this “hidden pandemic”, gesê Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (Nida), which co-funded the study.

Although people of racial and ethnic minority groups make up 39% of the US population, the study shows about 65% of minority Hispanic, Black, Asian and American Indian/Alaska Native children have lost a primary caregiver as a result of Covid. Thirty-five per cent of white children have also lost a primary caregiver.

“The death of a parental figure is an enormous loss that can reshape a child’s life,” Volkow said. But researchers say the needs of these children have been largely overlooked.

“Compared to white children, American Indian/Alaska Native children were 4.5 times more likely to lose a parent or grandparent caregiver, Black children were 2.4 times more likely, and Hispanic children were 1.8 times more likely,” Nida said.

The study was a collaboration between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Imperial College London, Harvard Universiteit, Oxford University and the University of Cape Town. Researchers used mortality, fertility, and census data to estimate Covid-associated orphanhood, which they define as the death of one or both parents, or the death of a custodial or co-residing grandparent who was primarily responsible for caring for a child or lived in the same household as the parent and assisted in caring for the child.

“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,” Susan Hillis, a CDC researcher and lead author of the study, gesê.

The study also revealed startling geographic disparities among minority children who have been affected by a Covid death.

Kalifornië, Texas, Florida and New York, the states with the largest populations, have the highest number of children who have lost a primary caregiver directly or indirectly from Covid. Researchers also found that “in southern states along the US-Mexico border, including New Mexico, Texas, and California, tussen 49% en 67% of children who lost a primary caregiver were of Hispanic ethnicity”.

In contrast, 45-57% of children in the southeastern states of Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana, who lost a primary caregiver, are Black. En, most of the American Indian/Alaska Native children who lost a caregiver reside in Arizona, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Montana and South Dakota.

Mississippi’s health department recently reported a decrease in the number of Covid cases and deaths after reaching an all-time high in August and early September, but as of Wednesday, the state continues to have the highest Covid death rate per capita than any other state, met 328 deaths per 100,000 residents. New Jersey has the second-highest death rate followed by Louisiana and Alabama.

Mississippi’s vaccination rate, which was also the lowest in the nation at one point, has increased along with Alabama and Louisiana, but this trio still has among the lowest vaccination rates in die VSA.

Volkow said children who experience orphanhood and other adverse events at an early age are at a greater risk for multiple physical and mental health conditions including suicide. They are also at an increased risk for drug abuse, sexual abuse and exploitation, and engaging in sexually risky behavior, dropping out of school or joining a gang.

Volkow, the authors of the study and child advocates say the US must take swift action to include caring for children in the country’s Covid response strategy by creating an effective plan to protect them, support their families, and address underlying structural inequities and health disparities. This plan must prioritize keeping children in their families. If that is not possible, Volkow said, there must be careful oversight of the foster family to avoid neglect and abuse – “otherwise these children do not have a chance”.

“When a child cannot live with their birth parent, almost always the preference would be to place the child with a relative,”Gesê Tyreasa Washington, Child Trends’ senior program area director for child welfare. Family placement, known as kinship care, provides more stability and is less traumatizing for a child than putting the child with non-kin foster parents, said Washington, a clinical social worker.

“Children also have better behavior and academic outcomes, and they are more likely to stay connected with their birth parents and siblings, as well as their culture,” het sy bygevoeg.

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