Abstract: Parental and Caregiver Loss Due to COVID-19: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Policy Implications (Society for Social Work and Research 27th Annual Conference - Social Work Science and Complex Problems: Battling Inequities + Building Solutions)

All in-person and virtual presentations are in Mountain Standard Time Zone (MST).

SSWR 2023 Poster Gallery: as a registered in-person and virtual attendee, you have access to the virtual Poster Gallery which includes only the posters that elected to present virtually. The rest of the posters are presented in-person in the Poster/Exhibit Hall located in Phoenix A/B, 3rd floor. The access to the Poster Gallery will be available via the virtual conference platform the week of January 9. You will receive an email with instructions how to access the virtual conference platform.

138P Parental and Caregiver Loss Due to COVID-19: Prevalence, Risk Factors, and Policy Implications

Friday, January 13, 2023
Phoenix C, 3rd Level (Sheraton Phoenix Downtown)
* noted as presenting author
Dan Treglia, PhD, Associate Professor of Practice, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA
J. J. Cutuli, Senior Research Scientist, Nemours Children's Health
Kamyar Arasteh, Data Scientist, Nemours Children's Health
John Bridgeland, CEO, COVID Collaborative
Background and Purpose: The nearly one million COVID-19 deaths in the United States include parents and others on whom children had relied for caregiving. These losses can be devastating for the development and long-term well-being of children, potentially leading to depression, symptoms of PTSD, substance abuse, lower educational attainment, and lower employment rates. There is therefore a policy imperative to address the mass caregiver loss we are seeing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. We estimate the number of children who lost a parent or other co-residing caregiver to COVID-19 in the U.S. and identify racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities.

Methods: We accomplish this by creating a novel dataset that aligns COVID-19 death counts, disaggregated by race, ethnicity, age group, and state, that are available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with a representative sample of individuals and households. This allows us to calculate COVID-19 death rates for all individuals in the United States. We aggregate these rates within households to calculate the probability of a child losing a caregiver, facilitating the creation of measures of caregiver loss based on the demographic characteristics of the child.

Results: We estimate that 174,952 children lost a co-residing caregiver to COVID-19 through December 15, 2021. Of them, 77,283 lost a parent, seventy thousand lost a grandparent, and more than 13,500 children lost their only within-household caregiver. Racial and ethnic disparities in caregiver loss exceed disparities in COVID-19 deaths: Black and Hispanic children more than twice as likely to lose a caregiver than their White counterparts, and American Indian/Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander children had caregiver loss rates between three and four times those of White children. Disparities are even higher in children losing their only caregiver, which creates an even more acute concern requiring attention from institutions. Half of all caregiver loss is concentrated in six states, though children lost caregivers in every U.S. state.

Conclusion and Implications: Caregiver deaths due to COVID-19 are a salient threat to the functioning of families and children, compounding additional challenges to physical and mental health and economic stability disproportionately imposed by the pandemic on historically disadvantaged populations. Policymakers and relevant systems should take steps to ensure affordable access to appropriate developmental, clinical, and financial support systems.