3,000+ NC children lost a caregiver to COVID, report says


FILE – In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara, File)

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – More than 3,000 children in North Carolina have lost a caregiver over the course of the pandemic, according to a report from the COVID Collaborative.

Those children were among the 167,082 nationwide who lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19. Of those, 13,000 lost their only in-home caregiver, according to the report.

In North Carolina, 3,626 children were found to have lost a caregiver. It meant for every 100,000 children in the state, 158 experienced a loss.

The report showed children of color were more likely to have lost a caregiver. Nationally, nonwhite children lost a caregiver at four times the rate of their white peers.

The disparity was seen in North Carolina, as well. The report found the rate of loss for non-Hispanic Black children was 235 per 100,000 children. For white children, the rate was 130 per 100,000.

Authors of the report said children most likely to lose a parent or caregiver to COVID-19 were also “most likely to have faced significant previous adversities that hinder their ability to successfully adapt to new experiences of adversity or trauma.”

It’s why the author said government, nonprofit, business, and philanthropic leaders need to develop strategies to help these children overcome the challenges from this loss. They listed a COVID-19 children’s bereavement fund, grief camps, and mentoring programs as options to help support these children.

While the report’s authors said the vast majority of children will experience a normal course of grief, a small portion will experience long-term trauma requiring clinical therapy. Risks to those children include depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, or lower rates of academic attainment. They also include alcohol or substance abuse and suicide.

A CDC report from October 2021 highlighting the issue of COVID orphans called it a hidden pandemic. CDC researcher Susan Hillis said in that report, “All of us – especially our children – will feel the serious immediate and long-term impact of this problem for generations to come. Addressing the loss that these children have experienced – and continue to experience – must be one of our top priorities, and it must be woven into all aspects of our emergency response, both now and in the post-pandemic future.”

In North Carolina, children between the ages of 14 and 17 experienced loss at higher rates than younger age groups.

  • 0-4 age group: 681 lost a caregiver
  • 5-13 age group: 1,886 lost a caregiver
  • 14–17 age group: 1,059 lost a caregiver

Overall, Mississippi had the highest rates for so-called COVID-19 orphans with 370 per 100,000 children losing a caregiver. Vermont had the lowest rate at 17 per 100,000 children losing a caregiver.

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