MADISON, Wis. - More than 1,000 Wisconsin children lost a parent or caretaking grandparent to COVID-19 through the middle of last year, according to a report by the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health.
The statistics released earlier this month are from the start of the pandemic through June 2021.
A researcher who studies child grief said leaving their trauma unchecked could have drastic consequences, such as depression and suicide. They are more likely to drop out of school and become victims of sexual abuse, said Stony Brook University epidemiologist Rachel Kidman.
"Those children are facing a real uphill battle," Kidman said.
Wisconsin’s rate of children being orphaned because of COVID-19 is one of the country’s lowest. Still, the state has racial disparities among children suffering this type of loss, Wisconsin Public Radio reported.
American Indian or Alaska native children in Wisconsin are nearly five times as likely to have lost a caregiver to COVID-19 compared to their white counterparts, the report said. For Wisconsin’s Black children, the rate is 2.5 times higher than that of white children.
Some remedies, Kidman said, include offering counseling and positive parenting programs, approving an expanded child tax credit to help lift families out of poverty, finding stable and supportive caregivers, and providing family leave.
Kidman found that 40,000 children in the U.S. were orphaned because of the pandemic between February 2020 and February 2021. That comes out to about one orphaned child for every 13 COVID-19 deaths nationally.