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The Pandemic’s Growing Toll on Children and Families

March 24, 2023

America must address the pandemic’s long-term toll on children and families, especially for those from marginalized communities.

A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine focuses on the ways COVID-19 has negatively affected the well-being of children and families and widened disparities for minority groups and people living on low incomes.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has had an unprecedented impact on the lives of children and their families, who have faced innumerable challenges such as illness and death; school closures; social isolation; financial hardship; food insecurity; deleterious mental health effects; and difficulties accessing health care,” the report notes.

Among the key takeaways from the new report:

  • Loss of caregivers:  Children from racial or ethnic minority groups account for 65 percent of those who lost a parent or primary caregiver to COVID-19.
  • Maternal mortality:  Rates for maternal mortality increased 33 percent during the pandemic—with the largest increases for Black and Latina women.
  • Four priorities:  The U.S. must focus on addressing the direct and indirect effects of the pandemic for children and families; mitigate potential shifts in life-course trajectory; respond to child- and family-focused data; and take action to prepare for the next pandemic.
  • Next steps:  The report calls for the establishment of a task force to address the effects of the pandemic on children and their families, especially focusing on Black, Latino, and Native American children and families, and families with low incomes who have experienced the greatest negative burden due to COVID-19.
  • Quotable:  “Without targeted investments in programs, services, supports, and interventions to counteract the pandemic’s direct and indirect negative impact on child and family well-being, the pandemic’s impacts are likely to be long lasting, with negative effects not only on children and families but also on society at large,” the report notes.

The study was sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.  

The report is available to review online.