In a new article for Stateline, Aallyah Wright looks into the support systems for children who have lost a parent or loved one to COVID-19. Unsurprisingly, what support is out there is lost in pandemic struggles and economic hardships for the newly bereaved.
From the story: “Some families lost several people within a span of a few months, and just having one loss after another—that kind of accumulation of more grief—we see higher levels of distress in some of the kiddos we’re seeing,” said Cecilia Segura-Paz, a licensed professional counselor-supervisor at the Children’s Bereavement Center of South Texas.
Because of the pandemic, some children didn’t get to attend a funeral or bereavement services. Others didn’t get a chance to say their last goodbyes. For some youth in underserved communities in South Texas, Segura-Paz said, existing economic hardships, food and housing insecurity, and disruptions to education have deepened and complicated their grief.
Through local partnerships and school-based programming, Segura-Paz said, her center was able to provide more counseling services and peer support groups for children, but high counselor caseloads, provider shortages and conflicts with class time during in-school sessions may have hindered children from getting the help they need.
From January 2020 to November 2021, more than 167,000 children under 18 lost a parent or in-home caregiver to COVID-19, according to a December report titled “Hidden Pain” by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, Nemours Children’s Health and the COVID Collaborative. The report found that Black and Hispanic children lost caregivers at more than double the rate of White children, while American Indian, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander children lost caregivers at nearly four times the rate of White children.”
While the Biden administration has put some funds aside for mental health services in schools, most states do not have any legislation dealing specifically with children who lost a parent to COVID. According to Wright, as of last year, 14 states have passed legislation to expand access to mental health services, and offer training to teachers.
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