Watson Coleman, Stevens Introduce Resolution Calling on Federal Government to Support Children of Victims of COVID-19
Washington, DC (March 7, 2022) – Today, Congresswomen Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12) and Haley Stevens (MI-11) introduced a resolution recognizing the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic on children who have lost caregivers and calling on the Federal Government to identify services and resources that can be used to assist them.
It is estimated that over 200,000 children in the United States have lost a primary caregiver to COVID-19. Under normal circumstances, children who lose a caregiver are more likely to suffer from depression and anxiety, have lower academic attainment, and increased rates of drug and alcohol abuse. It’s also associated with increased risky sexual behavior and violence. During the pandemic, access to resources has become more difficult as schools have been closed and face-to-face counseling has been limited. Studies have demonstrated that intervention and support groups can prevent children from developing many severe problems after the loss of a parent.
“As we respond and recover from the coronavirus pandemic, extra attention must be paid to its most vulnerable victims: the hundreds of thousands of children who lost parents and other caregivers,” said Rep. Watson Coleman. “The sudden loss of a loved one is traumatic for any child during normal conditions. The added difficulty of seeking help during the pandemic will compound this loss, putting children at further risk. Addressing this crisis, including the mental health needs of our children will be a long process and focusing on those children who have lost caregivers must be a priority.”
“While Congress was successful in allocating robust resources to combat the pandemic, very little has been done to acknowledge the hundreds of thousands of American children who tragically lost a caregiver due to COVID-19, the majority under age 13,” said Rep. Stevens. “Children in minority communities have been disproportionately impacted by the loss of a caregiver, putting them at greater risk for substance abuse disorders, mental illness, housing instability and lower rates of academic attainment. The impacts of this corresponding health crisis in our nation’s young people cannot be ignored. Today, we recognize the outsized impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our bereaved children and commit to identifying and prioritizing their unique needs.”
About 1 in 360 children under 18 have lost a primary caregiver to COVID-19; 70 percent of the caregiver loss affecting children under 14. Sixty-five percent of children experiencing the loss of a primary caregiver to COVID-19 come from minority communities.
The resolution also recognizes that there may be unknown, long-term consequences of the loss of a caregiver in the context of the larger global pandemic.
“We applaud Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman and the other Members of Congress for raising awareness of the needs of the more than 200,000 children in the United States who have lost a parent or other caregiver to COVID-19,” said John M. Bridgeland, Co-Founder and CEO of the COVID Collaborative and former Director of the White House Domestic Policy Council under President George W. Bush. “Congressional leadership can help a generation of children and their families cope with their grief and trauma, and ensure they thrive into the future.”
“COVID-19-related deaths drove a significant increase in the number of children grieving the death of a parent, with a disproportionate impact on children of color and rural youths. Now more than ever, the bereavement field must systematically assess and address programming gaps to foster equitable services by bringing together diverse partners and perspectives to ensure all children can access appropriate care,” said Micki Burns, PhD, chief clinical officer for Judi’s House/JAG Institute, a community-based nonprofit that provides comprehensive grief care services for bereaved youth and families.
Text of the resolution can be found here.