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Thousands of New York Children Lost a Parent or Guardian to COVID-19, Study Finds

Some 4,200 kids in New York state have lost at least one parent or guardian to COVID-19.
Some 4,200 kids in New York state have lost at least one parent or guardian to COVID-19.
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Between March and July, one out of every 1,000 children in the state lost a parent or caregiver to COVID-19 — with the majority of the deaths recorded in New York City, according to a new report out Wednesday.

The analysis by United Hospital Fund and Boston Consulting Group also shows that the coronavirus crisis is also extracting a deep, potentially long-lasting economic toll on kids already devastated by deaths of loved ones.

In July, when there was no official count of parents or caregivers lost to the virus, THE CITY used local labor union records to hint at the scale of children’s loss. Now, that number is clearer: some 57% of the 4,200 children who lost a parent or caregiver live in the Bronx, Brooklyn or Queens, according to the report.

“This pandemic is like nothing we’ve ever seen before. The closest comparison in the state would be 9/11, when more than 3,000 children lost a parent,” said Suzanne Brundage, director of UHF’s Children’s Health Initiative and a co-author of the report. “Losing a parent or caregiver during childhood raises a child’s risk of developing a range of poor outcomes over their lifetime, including poorer mental and physical health.”

The report paints a stark portrait of the consequences on New York children under the age of 18 who lost a parent or guardian to COVID-19. Those repercussions are even greater among people and communities of color disproportionately affected by the virus.

Black and Hispanic children experienced parental deaths at twice the rate of Asian and white children. One in 600 Black children and one in 700 Hispanic children lost a parent or caregiver, compared to one per 1,400 Asian children and one per 1,500 white children, according to the report.

People in ZIP codes with higher numbers of parental loss were more likely to live in overcrowded housing and poverty.

In the city, Brooklyn and Queens share the highest number of children who lost a parent to COVID, with approximately 890 each. The Bronx is next with 600, followed by Manhattan with 360 and 120 in Staten Island.

Poverty Risks Grow

Losing a parent or caregiver puts children at risk for entry into the foster system or kinship care, as well as making them more vulnerable to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Nearly 50% of these children may enter poverty, the report said.

However, the result of the pandemic’s economic downturn affects more children than just those lost a guardian. The report found nearly 325,000 children have been thrust into poverty or close to it due to the economic impacts of COVID-19.

“As New Yorkers determine how to respond to the pandemic during a precarious city and state budget situation, it is critical not to lose sight of its immediate and long-term effects on child poverty, mental health, and overall well-being,” said Dr. Anthony Shih, the United Hospital Fund’s president.

The report’s authors estimate $800 million in housing, food, health insurance and remote learning investments will be needed in the next year to support the basic needs of approximately 300,000 children nearing or on the poverty line in New York City.

In addition, the long-term effects on children could cost New York State an estimated $1.7 billion over the next 50 years, plus an additional loss of $8.5 billion in annual income lost due to learning disruptions during the pandemic.

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