United Church of Christ – Wider Church Ministries
Humanitarian Development Team
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Daily Briefing
Barbara T. Baylor, MPH – Temporary Health Liaison
Children’s physical, social and emotional health in the COVID-19 pandemic
Editor's note: See "Education" and "SNAP" sections for advocacy opportunities!
At my invitation over the Easter weekend, my teen-aged grandchildren and some of their friends reflected on the COVID-19 pandemic:
- I'm "scared and paranoid."
- "You don't know if you have it."
- “I’m afraid my parents will get it and die.”
- It "makes me think more and care about what’s going on in the world."
- "Before the virus maybe a lot of us were not washing our hands, now we are washing them all the time.”
- "Having hope and faith in myself is a good investment during this time."
- “Hope is knowing that a better year is coming and we need continue to strive for greatness.”
Their answers open a window on children's fears and hopes, suffering and resiliency. There's the prospect of actual infection with COVID-19, and the larger impact on children's physical, emotional and social health by circumstances related to the pandemic.
The Centers for Disease Control maintain that while children can be infected with the coronavirus, most cases are mild (fever, cough, runny nose, sometimes nausea and diarrhea).
But some children have been sick enough to be hospitalized, and researchers are learning that babies and toddlers appear to be at higher risk of developing severe symptoms than school-age children. Children with pre-existing medical conditions also are more vulnerable.
Then there is the wider impact. Consider the problems that were uncovered during Hurricane Katrina in 2005. That research found that young people suffered long-term damage from trauma and economic fallout. (See: Kids Aren’t Alright)
Data now being collected by several states and echoed by public health experts show that COVID-19 disproportionally affects low-income and poor families of color who are currently living in poverty and struggling to keep their families together, often without steady employment, housing, food or healthcare. Young children are living with or may have been exposed to someone with COVID-19.
If the COVID-19 pandemic sparks a recession, then data from previous downturns indicate that food security, physical health and general well-being for children will diminish, and quickly.
The disruption in the school year has been felt by many families around the country. Quality education is being threatened. For young people, socialization with friends and classmates, opportunities for social growth and increasing skill levels have been suspended temporarily. Parents have gone from being supplementary to being the primary teachers of their children. For some this has been successful but for many it has been a nightmare.
Impacts of this new learning dynamic are highlighting disparities between families. These include the amount of time devoted to teaching, especially if parents are still working outside of the home. Parents have different skill levels to assist their children. There are technological challenges and issues securing online materials. Visual-learning children and those with other learning disabilities need extra care and specialized teaching methods with which many parents are not equipped. Student assessments have also been suspended and that may have long-term consequences for some youth.
The CARES Act provides $30.75 billion for educational purposes. States must now prioritize the needs of K-12 students who have been disproportionately impacted by this pandemic, including students of color, students from low-income backgrounds, and students with disabilities. Contact your state officials and local school board and ask them to please ensure federal stimulus funds are distributed equitably to all schools. See 5 Things State Leaders Should Do to Ensure Federal Stimulus Funds For Schools Are Used Equitably
Early Childhood Education (ECE)
COVID-19 has left working parents and guardians of young children with the burden of finding alternatives to affordable childcare. Many ECE centers are now closed. If one-third of childcare centers were to permanently close, it would leave 4 million young children without care. See Ways COVID-19 is Creating Even Greater Inequities in Early Childhood Education (ECE).
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) serves about 40 million people a year in this country. With school closures across the country due to the COVID-19 pandemic, districts and schools have been working tirelessly to provide access to school meals through grab-and-go programs at schools and community sites.
Congress has recently passed several pieces of legislation to address the coronavirus pandemic which will ease some of the burden of food insecurities:
- The work requirements and time limits on benefits that are normally in place have been effectively suspended.
- States may request special waivers from the USDA Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to provide temporary, emergency benefits to existing SNAP households up to the maximum monthly allotment.
- Households with children who would normally be receiving school meals will receive emergency SNAP assistance to help cover the meals those children would have had at school.
In order to strengthen and prioritize anti-hunger efforts, a 15 percent increase to the maximum SNAP benefit has been recommended in the next COVID-19 legislative relief package. Please contact your members of Congress and urge them to support this measure in any future legislation.
Tips to keep children healthy while school’s out
Who is dying from COVID-19 in the U.S.? New CDC research offers limited clues
COVID-19 and children: what you should know
CA & NY Parents Overwhelmingly Concerned Their Children Are Falling Behind During School Closures
Kids and COVID-19: What Parents Should Know
The Impact of Changing SNAP and School Meals During COVID-19
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)