More than 120,000 American children have seen their caregivers die during the pandemic
NEW YORK – The number of American children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic could be greater than previously estimated, and the toll has been much higher among blacks and Hispanics, suggests a new one study.
More than half of the children who lost a primary caregiver during the pandemic belonged to these two racial groups, which make up about 40% of the U.S. population, according to the study released Thursday by the medical journal Pediatrics.
“These findings really highlight the children who have been made the most vulnerable by the pandemic and to whom additional resources should be directed,” said one of the study’s authors, Dr Alexandra Blenkinsop of the Imperial. College London, in a statement.
In the 15 months of the nearly 19-month COVID-19 pandemic, more than 120,000 American children have lost a parent or grandparent who was the primary provider of financial support and care, according to the study. Another 22,000 children suffered the death of a secondary caregiver – for example, a grandparent who provided housing but not the other basic needs of a child.
In many cases, surviving parents or other family members have stayed behind to provide for these children. But the researchers used the term “orphanage” in their study as they tried to estimate how many children’s lives had been turned upside down.
Federal statistics are not yet available on the number of U.S. children placed in foster care last year. Researchers estimate that COVID-19 has caused a 15% increase in the number of orphaned children.
The numbers in the new study are based on statistical modeling that used fertility rates, death statistics and data on household composition to make estimates.
An earlier study by different researchers estimated that around 40,000 American children lost a parent to COVID-19 in February 2021.
The results of the two studies are not contradictory, said Ashton Verdery, author of the previous study. Verdery and his colleagues focused on a shorter time frame than the new study. Verdery’s group also focused solely on parent deaths, while the new document also captured what happened to helping grandparents.
“It is very important to understand the losses of the grandparents,” Verdery, a researcher at Penn State, said in an email. “Many children live with their grandparents”, a way of life more common among some racial groups.
About 32% of all children who lost a primary caregiver were Hispanic and 26% were black. Hispanics and Black Americans make up much lower percentages of the population than that. White children made up 35% of children who lost primary caregivers, even though more than half of the population is white.
The differences were much more pronounced in some states. In California, 67% of children who lost their primary caregivers were Hispanic. In Mississippi, 57% of children who lost their primary caregivers were black, according to the study.
The new study based its calculation on excess deaths, or deaths above what would be considered typical. Most of these deaths were due to the coronavirus, but the pandemic has also led to no more deaths other causes.
Kate Kelly, a Georgian teenager, lost her 54-year-old father in January. William “Ed” Kelly was having difficulty breathing and an emergency care clinic suspected it was due to COVID-19, she said. But it turned out he had a blocked artery and died in labor of a heart attack, leaving Kate, her two sisters and her mother.
In the first month after her death, friends and neighbors brought groceries, donated and stood in solidarity. But after that, it seemed like everyone had moved on except Kate and her family.
“It was like no help at all,” said the high school student from Lilburn.
The Associated Press’s Department of Health and Science receives support from the Department of Science Education at Howard Hughes Medical Institute. The AP is solely responsible for all content.
Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.