October 22, 2021

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New study finds that 1 out of 500 kids in the U.S. has lost a caregiver to COVID-19

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - JUNE 05: Brandon Hurtado holds his two-year-old daughter Alexa as he receives a COVID-19 vaccine outside of It’s Official Barbershop in the West Englewood neighborhood on June 05, 2021 in Chicago, Illinois. People who dropped by to get vaccinated at the pop up vaccination clinic were offered a free haircut in the barbershop and two tickets to Great America amusement park.  (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

New study finds that 1 out of 500 kids in the U.S. has lost a caregiver to COVID-19

Information about New study finds that 1 out of 500 kids in the U.S. has lost a caregiver to COVID-19

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According to researchers, the study includes not only deaths that occurred as a result of direct coronavirus-related illness leading to death, but also “excess deaths” that researchers believe are the result of lacking health care services or access to health care services was stifled by the pandemic. Excess deaths are “typically defined as the difference between the observed numbers of deaths in specific time periods and expected numbers of deaths in the same time periods,” according to the CDC. In the case of the study, researchers “calculated as the difference between average monthly deaths from 2015-2019 compared to 2020-2021.”


“It’s not just one of 500 are dead; one of 500 American children have lost their mommy or daddy or grandparents who took care of them.”

—Susan Hillis


The breakdown of children who lost an essential caregiver is staggering:

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In addition to the 120,630 children who were estimated to have lost a primary caregiver — a parent or grandparent responsible for providing housing, basic needs and care — 22,007 lost a secondary caregiver, or a grandparent providing housing but not most basic needs, the study projected.

As with most things in our country, Black and Hispanic children have been affected by deaths of caregivers disproportionately, comprising more than half of the loses while making up around 40% of the U.S. population. One of the authors of the study, Dr. Alexandra Blenkinsop of Imperial College London, released a statement that underlined this fact. “These findings really highlight those children who have been left most vulnerable by the pandemic, and where additional resources should be directed.” Susan Hillis told NPR. “Sixty-five percent of all children experiencing COVID-associated orphanhood or death of their primary caregiver are of racial and ethnic minority. That is such an extreme disparity.”

The details are a stark reminder of the cruelty of a white supremacist system:

  • 1 in 168 American Indian/Alaska Native children lost a caregiver
  • 1 in 310 Black children lost a caregiver
  • 1 in 412 Hispanic children lost a caregiver
  • 1 in 612 Asian children lost a caregiver
  • 1 in 753 White children lost a caregiver

In many cases, there are still relatives or at least one caregiver remaining who is able to continue to take care of the children, but that is not always the case. To this end, researchers estimate that foster care facilities have seen around a 15% increase directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic. According to the Associated Press, an earlier study published in February put the number of U.S. children to have lost a parent from COVID-19 at 40,000. One of the researchers of that study, Ashton Verdery,  told AP that there is no inconsistency between these new findings and the previous study’s findings. “It is very important to understand grandparental losses. Many children live with grandparents.”

HOUSTON, TEXAS - AUGUST 03: A woman and child visit Waterwall park on August 03, 2021 in Houston, Texas. As of mid-April, the Houston Methodist Hospital has identified and treated the Delta variant; a mutation of COVID-19. Houston has seen an upward increase of Delta infections and in recent weeks, COVID-19 Vaccinations administered have significantly increased. More than 856,000 doses were administered on July 30, the highest daily figure since July 3. (Photo by Brandon Bell/Getty Images)

And this is not as simple as getting children the housing and food they need to survive now that their lives have been turned upside down because of an inept national response to our pandemic. This is a problem of a unique type of trauma that an entire generation of young people will bring with them for decades to come. Psychiatrist at Columbia University Dr. Warren Ng explained to NPR that the nature of the pandemic also creates its own awful unique trauma: “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.”

Researchers hope that studies like the ones they have just done will move our country—and more specifically our governmental agencies—to add a directed response to the children affected by this pandemic. As conservatives have made a calorie-free meal out of saying they are trying their hardest to protect and care for the young in our society, it would be a perfect place to find bipartisan support in our infrastructure bill—one would think.

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