For every four COVID-19 deaths, one child was left behind without a mother, father and/or a grandparent who provided for that child's home needs and nurture — needs such as love, security and daily care. — Susan Hillis, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
For every four COVID-19 deaths, one child was left behind without a mother, father and/or a grandparent who provided for that child's home needs and nurture — needs such as love, security and daily care. — Susan Hillis, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

One of the things that's unique about the pandemic is that it's also not only deprived us of a loved one, but it's also deprived us of our opportunities that come together, so that families can heal, [and] support one another in order to really get through the most difficult times of life. —  Dr. Warren Ng, a psychiatrist at Columbia University
One of the things that's unique about the pandemic is that it's also not only deprived us of a loved one, but it's also deprived us of our opportunities that come together, so that families can heal, [and] support one another in order to really get through the most difficult times of life. — Dr. Warren Ng, a psychiatrist at Columbia University

COVID deaths leave thousands of U.S. kids grieving parents or primary caregivers
Of all the sad statistics the U.S. has dealt with this past year and a half, here is a particularly difficult one: A new study estimates that more than 140,000 children in the U.S. have lost a parent or a grandparent caregiver to COVID-19. The majority of these children come from racial and ethnic minority groups.

"This means that for every four COVID-19 deaths, one child was left behind without a mother, father and/or a grandparent who provided for that child's home needs and nurture — needs such as love, security and daily care," says Susan Hillis, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and lead author of the new study.

The study, which was published Thursday in the journal Pediatrics, estimated the number of losses from April 1, 2020, through the end of June 2021 at 140,000. And that number has risen in the past three months: Hillis estimates it is around 175,000 today.

"This number will continue to grow as long as our pandemic deaths increase," Hillis says.

Once a child loses their parent or primary caregiver, Hillis says, the tragedy is something they live with for "the entire duration of their childhoods."


It's a situation that calls for urgent action, Hillis notes. These children need "understanding, help, support," she says. And it's important "to ensure that they have a safe and loving family to continue to support their needs and nurture."

And, just as COVID-19 has killed more people in communities of color, children in these communities are the most impacted by the loss of parents and primary caregivers.

"Sixty-five percent of all children experiencing COVID-associated orphanhood or death of their primary caregiver are of racial and ethnic minority," says Hillis. "That is such an extreme disparity."

The study defines orphanhood as the death of one or both parents. The study also tracked the loss of caregiving grandparents.

And if you look more closely at individual groups, American Indian and Alaska Native children were 4.5 times more likely to have lost a primary caregiver compared with white children. Black children were 2.4 times more likely and Hispanic children almost twice as likely.

Losing a parent or caregiver in childhood is a significant trauma. The study notes that this type of adverse childhood experience "may result in profound long-term impact on health and well-being for children."

"Adverse childhood experiences are associated with increased risks of every major cause of death in adulthood," says Hillis.

... "One of the things that's unique about the pandemic is that it's also not only deprived us of a loved one, but it's also deprived us of our opportunities that come together, so that families can heal, [and] support one another in order to really get through the most difficult times of life," he says.
Read the full article: https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/10/07/1043881136/covid-deaths-leave-thousands-of-u-s-kids-grieving-parents-or-primary-caregivers