COVID-19’s forgotten children
In a few short weeks, the COVID-19 virus has dramatically changed the lives of children and families. Parents are losing jobs, schools and early care and education programs are closed, and the social and community supports many of us rely on are sidelined. At the same time, our public systems, institutions, and programs are racing to adapt—to figure out how to fulfill their missions in ways that keep both their own staff and the families they serve safe and healthy.
Many of these public systems and community-based programs serve children who are rarely in the public eye, yet their well-being depends in significant ways on public policies and public agencies at all levels of government. As our nation grapples with these unexpected and overwhelming challenges, my colleagues and I urge policymakers and the public to prioritize the children and families noted here, who face unique obstacles during this crisis; and to recall that, for those in low-income families, there is the additional threat of devastating financial consequences.
- 7 million infants, toddlers, and children with disabilities who, with their families, struggle with the sudden absence of health services and learning accommodations as providers close and schools grapple with providing remote instruction to all students
- 2.8 million children living in the care of grandparents who are also at increased risk of complications associated with the virus
- 437,000 children currently in foster homes who may face challenges visiting with family and siblings or lose critical reunification services
- 43,000 youth living in juvenile justice facilities, where viruses can spread more easily
- 5 million children living with at least one unauthorized immigrant parent, because families of mixed legal status are less likely to apply for social services, more likely to have breadwinners employed in industries hit hard by Covid-19, and less likely to have health insurance
- Additionally, tens of thousands of unaccompanied children and youth apprehended at the border, many of whom remain in detention facilities where viruses can easily spread
- 3.5 million young adults ages 18–25 who experience some form of homelessness in a given year and struggle to remain safe and healthy during the crisis
At Child Trends, we’ve recently released materials that provide research-based guidance and new data to inform decisions about how best to meet the needs of all children and their families in the midst of COVID-19—and we’ll continue to release more in the weeks and months to come.