Over 120,000 American children orphaned because of COVID-19

The number of American children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be higher than previously estimated, a new study says. This number is especially much higher among Black and Hispanic Americans.

The director of a funeral home arranges flowers on a coffin before a ceremony in Tampa, Florida, USA. Photo: AP
The director of a funeral home arranges flowers on a coffin before a ceremony in Tampa, Florida, USA. Photo: AP

According to the AP news agency, research published in the Journal of Pediatric Medicine on October 7 found that in the first 15 months of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 120,000 American children lost a parent or grandparent, caregiver. care and financial support. Another 22,000 children have lost an auxiliary caregiver, such as a grandparent, who provides housing but fails to provide for the child's other basic needs.

The study also found that about 32% of children who lost a primary caregiver were Hispanic and 26% were of color. Hispanics and people of color make up a small percentage of the population. Meanwhile, white children make up 35% of children who have lost a primary caregiver, even though more than half of the US population is white.

This difference is more pronounced in some states. In California, 67% of children who have lost a primary caregiver are Hispanic. Research shows that in Mississippi, 57% of children who have lost a primary caregiver are people of color.

One of the study's authors, Dr Alexandra Blenkinsop at Imperial College London, said: "These findings highlight the fact that children are the most vulnerable during the pandemic and that they are children. More support is needed.”

The new study's figures are based on a statistical model that uses birth rates, mortality statistics, and household composition data to make estimates.

However, federal statistics still provide enough information on how many orphans received respite care in the last year. Researchers estimate COVID-19 has increased the number of orphans by 15%.

Another earlier study estimated that about 40,000 American children had lost a parent to COVID-19 as of February 2021. Ashton Verdery, the study's author, said the results of the two studies were not inconsistent.

Verdery and his colleagues only focused on a shorter period of time than the new study. Verdery's team also focused only on the deaths of the children's parents, while the new study included the deaths of grandparents caring for them.

“It is very important to include grandparents. Many children are living with grandparents,” Mr. Verdery said.

In July, The Lancet Medical Journal also published a study on the secondary effects of the pandemic. The first segment is about orphans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite many factors, low vaccination rates are part of the reason why millions more children will become orphans, the study said.

In the United States, despite the availability of effective vaccines, many people delay or hesitate to get vaccinated not only putting their children under 12 at risk, but can also ruin their childhoods. by fear and separation when their parents died of COVID-19.

The COVID-19 pandemic has left many children orphans. Artwork: India Today
The COVID-19 pandemic has left many children orphans. Artwork: India Today

"The out-of-control COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically and permanently changed the lives of children left behind," said Seth Flaxman, one of the Lancet study authors. These children, he said, "will grow up with a profound loss because of what they've been through".

Emily Smith-Greenaway, Associate Professor of Sociology and Spatial Sciences at USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, shares a similar view. The negative consequences associated with the deaths of children's parents are hard to come by, she says: "They last into adulthood, even into adulthood."

Smith-Greenaway says the sudden deaths of parents from COVID-19 can be especially devastating for children. In fact, this happens at a time of social isolation, economic hardship and school closures that can cause many children to experience tremendous loss without emotional support and support. emotional.

She thinks the government should start collecting lists of children who have lost a parent or primary caregiver. From there, connect them to support services, similar to efforts to support families after the 9/11 tragedy.

Currently, American society has not done enough to protect these children physically. The death of a parent usually means that the children remain financially unstable. It is estimated that less than 50% of children who have lost a parent receive the survivor's social security benefit they would otherwise be entitled to.

“These children are facing so many things,” Mr. Verdery said. We haven't even connected them to the benefits they're entitled to."

With more than 4.8 million people dying from COVID-19, this epidemic has reshaped the world, but most brutally for families with children under the age of 18. Globally, at least 1.5 million children have lost a parent or caregiver. The US is second only to Mexico, India and Brazil in the number of children who have lost a parent or caregiver during the COVID-19 pandemic. This number is expected to grow as the now contagious Delta variant is spreading rapidly among people under 50, whose children may still be dependent on them.

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