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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention projects more than 140,000 children in the United States have lost a parent or primary caretaker since the onset of the pandemic in a new study. Of those hundreds of thousands of children, one of every 310 Black children has lost a parent or grandparent who cared for them.
In states in the Southeast, the concentration of loss is most felt, according to Dr. Susan Hillis, the lead author of the CDC study. She told TheGrio there is a growing effort to create an extension of the COVID emergency response team that would focus on the pandemic’s impact on children.
“I am very concerned about all the vulnerabilities that children are being exposed to with very little help and because there is such racial and ethnic disparities,” Hillis said.
Losing a parent increases a child’s risk of sexual abuse, mental health problems, housing instability, and poverty. Many of these issues, experts think, are tasks the federal government must intervene in to prevent widespread crises among children who are now returning to classrooms.
Dr. Jeff Gardere, a clinical psychologist, explained to theGrio that the loss of a parent or guardian “will make it much more difficult for [Black children] to be successful in life.
“Black children attend schools that are funded much less than other schools,” Gardere added. “They have to deal with multi-generational stress from racism. And this is yet another issue now that is part of the many disparities that they have to deal with being children of color.”
Leah Austin, president and CEO of National Black Child Development Institute, contends the loss of a parental support system can accelerate the school-to-prison pipeline if children act out during their moment of grief.
She thinks schools “need the data and the ability to determine and identify the students in their schools who have [are experiencing] this trauma” so they can “then be able to provide the kinds of support that those children would need.”
In addition to the social and emotional health of Black children, their educational prospects could be hampered by the loss of financial support that occurs when the head of household dies of COVID-19.
“There’s an income that is now missing,” said Austin. “You’re talking about literally less Black people who may go to college or less Black people who may be able to.”
Nearly 80% of Black women lead their households, according to Natalie Madeira Coldfield, assistant administrator for the Office of Women’s Business Ownership, which is part of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
“We already know that Black women are primary caregivers in their homes,” Coldfield highlighted. “Research has already shown us that we also know that nearly 65% of Black women who are entrepreneurs have side hustles as a way for them to make up for the wage gap that exists.”
Many of the households Coldfield describes already were disadvantaged from an economic standpoint, by income discrimination in the labor force.
The Biden Administration implemented a child tax credit to give back to households that needed more funds to support their youth, but now, with one or both parental units lost to COVID, experts are seeking additional support from the federal government to stabilize these vulnerable children’s future.
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