Thousands of Kids in NY Lost a Parent or Caregiver to COVID-19, New Report Shows

The coronavirus pandemic has left about 8,600 children in New York City without a parent or caregiver. Here's what that may mean for their futures.

Child's hand on window
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More than two years since the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic, its impact on families continues. Upwards of 200,000 children under 18 in the U.S. lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19, and a new report shows children in New York have been particularly affected.

About 8,600 children in New York City were left without a parent or caregiver because of COVID-19, according to The City. Black, Latinx, and Asian children in New York City were found to be about three times more likely to lose a parent or caregiver to COVID compared to white children.

This isn't the first time COVID's impact on New York families has been highlighted. Analysis from the United Hospital Fund (UHF) and Boston Consulting Group published in September 2020 found about 4,200 children in New York State lost a parent or caregiver between March and July 2020. "This pandemic is like nothing we've ever seen before. The closest comparison in the state would be 9/11, when more than 3,000 children lost a parent," Suzanne Brundage, director of UHF's Children's Health Initiative and a co-author of the report said in a statement.

Again, there were racial and ethnic disparities in those numbers: Black and Latinx kids lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19 at twice the rate of white and Asian children. To break it down further: 1 in 600 Black kids and 1 in 700 Hispanic kids lost a parent or caregiver, compared to 1 in 1,400 Asian kids and 1 in 1,500 white kids.

Regardless of their race or ethnicity, though, these children are now put at risk for poor future outcomes. "Losing a parent or caregiver during childhood raises a child's risk of developing a range of poor outcomes over their lifetime, including poorer mental and physical health," adds Brundage.

The death of a parent is considered an adverse childhood experience (ACE), trauma that can lead to negative outcomes in adulthood, including substance abuse disorder, poor academic or job performance, and heart disease. Helping children through trauma is key to mitigating future issues, and sometimes a therapist may be needed. "These children and their families will require ongoing support and investment to ensure that the next generation won't remain victims of this current COVID-19 pandemic. Given the magnitude of the challenge for state and local authorities, federal support will be crucial," the report reads.

The analysis from UHF and the Boston Consulting Group also found 23 percent of kids who lost a parent may be at risk of entering foster or kinship care and 50 percent of them may enter poverty. In the meantime, 325,000 children have already been "pushed into or near poverty" due to the pandemic.

"As New Yorkers determine how to respond to the pandemic during a precarious city and state budget situation, it is critical not to lose sight of its immediate and long-term effects on child poverty, mental health, and overall well-being," Anthony Shih, M.D., UHF president, said in the statement. "We hope this analysis will provide policymakers and community leaders with the data to help develop necessary strategies and policies."

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