The coronavirus pandemic has left more than 4,000 children in New York without a parent or caregiver. Here's what that may mean for their futures.

By Anna Halkidis
October 02, 2020
Child's hand on window
Credit: Getty Images

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep the nation, reports show there have been more than 200,000 deaths due to COVID-19 in the U.S. to date. Among those deaths are parents and caregivers, and a new report shows children in New York have been heavily affected by those losses.

Between March and July, about 4,2000 children lost a parent or caregiver, according to new analysis from the United Hospital Fund (UHF) and Boston Consulting Group. “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.

There are also racial and ethnic disparities in those numbers: Black and Hispanic kids lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19 at twice the rate than white and Asian children. To break it down further: One 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 also found 23 percent of kids who lost a parent may be at risk to enter 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.”