New Report Finds Many Families with Children Are Depressed, Uninsured, Hungry and at Risk of Foreclosure or Eviction

Posted December 14, 2020
By the Annie E. Casey Foundation
News release for the Casey Foundation's Kids, Families and COVID-19 report

Fam­i­lies require an imme­di­ate pol­i­cy response to meet the needs of chil­dren dur­ing the COVID-19 pan­dem­ic, which has left mil­lions strug­gling with finances, school, work and men­tal health, accord­ing to a new pol­i­cy report from the Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion, a decades-long advo­cate for young peo­ple in Amer­i­ca. In Kids, Fam­i­lies and COVID-19: Pan­dem­ic Pain Points and the Urgent Need to Respond, a 50-state report, data show chil­dren and fam­i­lies are suf­fer­ing from the unprece­dent­ed dis­rup­tion and eco­nom­ic storm set off by the glob­al health crisis.

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In assess­ing food secu­ri­ty, the abil­i­ty to make rent or mort­gage pay­ments, health insur­ance sta­tus and men­tal health con­cerns, the Foun­da­tion iden­ti­fied four pain points for chil­dren and fam­i­lies that require imme­di­ate action for relief and an oppor­tu­ni­ty to build a more equi­table future. Key find­ings include:

  • One in sev­en fam­i­lies with chil­dren (14%) said that in the most recent week, there was some­times or always not enough to eat in their house­hold. The fig­ures were 23% for Black house­holds with chil­dren, 23% for those of two or more races or anoth­er race and 19% for Lati­nos com­pared to white (10%) and Asian households.
  • Near­ly one in five house­holds with kids (18%) said they had only slight con­fi­dence or no con­fi­dence at all that they would be able to make their next rent or mort­gage pay­ment on time.
  • One in eight fam­i­lies with chil­dren (12%) lack health insur­ance, a fig­ure which has been wors­en­ing over the past four years. More than a third of peo­ple with chil­dren in the house­hold (34%) report­ed that they had delayed get­ting med­ical care in the pre­vi­ous month.
  • A fifth of respon­dents with chil­dren in their house­holds (21%) report­ed that they had felt down, depressed or hope­less in the pre­vi­ous week, indi­cat­ing a wide­spread need for access to men­tal health care.

America’s chil­dren are in cri­sis,” said Annie E. Casey Foun­da­tion Pres­i­dent and CEO Lisa Hamil­ton. All across the coun­try, fam­i­lies with chil­dren are strug­gling to over­come an unprece­dent­ed con­ver­gence of emer­gen­cies. We need imme­di­ate and deci­sive action from pol­i­cy­mak­ers that pri­or­i­tizes equi­table solu­tions to help fam­i­lies sur­vive this catastrophe.”

Nation­al data indi­cate that try­ing to edu­cate chil­dren remote­ly while par­ents need to work is tak­ing an enor­mous toll on fam­i­lies. Near­ly half of the adult respon­dents (49%) indi­cat­ed that they felt they were not equipped to help their chil­dren with school­work, and 32% report­ed lack­ing ade­quate broad­band inter­net and online learn­ing tools. More than three in ten respon­dents with chil­dren said they are less like­ly to return to work due to the lack of child care (32%).

Maine, Min­neso­ta, Nebras­ka and New Hamp­shire appeared among the top ten states for three or all four of the pain points iden­ti­fied in the report. States in the bot­tom ten for in three or all four cat­e­gories were Flori­da, Louisiana, Mis­sis­sip­pi, Neva­da, Rhode Island and Texas.

Our fed­er­al, state and local deci­sion mak­ers need to mount a response to COVID-19 that enables America’s chil­dren and fam­i­lies to weath­er this cri­sis and yields more equi­table out­comes,” said Leslie Boissiere, vice pres­i­dent of Exter­nal Affairs at the Casey Foun­da­tion. The Coro­n­avirus Aid, Relief and Eco­nom­ic Secu­ri­ty (CARES) Act, which ear­li­er this year pro­vid­ed an unprece­dent­ed $1.8 tril­lion in sup­port to fam­i­lies, busi­ness­es and state, local and trib­al gov­ern­ments, is proof our lead­ers can inter­vene to reach fam­i­lies and chil­dren in pain.”

The Foun­da­tion urges pol­i­cy­mak­ers and child advo­cates to unite across dif­fer­ences and put COVID-19 response at the top of 2021 agen­das to make sure chil­dren have what they need to sur­vive and thrive, call­ing on elect­ed offi­cials and oth­er deci­sion mak­ers to:

  • Put racial and eth­nic equi­ty first in pol­i­cy­mak­ing by using dis­ag­gre­gat­ed data and engag­ing com­mu­ni­ty stake­hold­ers, ensur­ing the pol­i­cy­mak­ing process is informed by the diverse per­spec­tives of those hard­est hit by the cri­sis and cre­at­ed in part­ner­ship with com­mu­ni­ties. This approach should under­pin any con­crete pol­i­cy actions.
  • Pri­or­i­tize the phys­i­cal and men­tal health of all chil­dren by guar­an­tee­ing that any vac­cine will be avail­able with­out cost as a fac­tor and by strength­en­ing the Afford­able Care Act. To pro­mote men­tal health, par­tic­u­lar­ly in times of cri­sis, pol­i­cy­mak­ers should work to reduce the stu­dent-to-school-coun­selor ratio in all school set­tings to lev­els rec­om­mend­ed by men­tal health professionals.
  • Help fam­i­lies with chil­dren achieve finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty and bol­ster their well-being by expand­ing access to unem­ploy­ment insur­ance for part-time and gig econ­o­my work­ers, low-wage work­ers and stu­dents and by expand­ing child care access. Beyond any tem­po­rary hous­ing assis­tance pro­grams aimed at head­ing off a fore­clo­sure or evic­tion cri­sis, fed­er­al pol­i­cy­mak­ers should expand hous­ing pro­grams most fre­quent­ly accessed by fam­i­lies with chil­dren. They should also elim­i­nate bar­ri­ers to access­ing Tem­po­rary Assis­tance for Needy Fam­i­lies (TANF), the Earned Income Tax Cred­it (EITC) and the Child Tax Cred­it (CTC).
  • Ensure schools are bet­ter fund­ed, more equi­tably fund­ed and ready to meet the needs of stu­dents dis­parate­ly affect­ed by the pan­dem­ic. By pro­tect­ing school fund­ing from the eco­nom­ic effects of the pan­dem­ic, build­ing main­te­nance-of-equi­ty require­ments into relief pack­ages and invest­ing to address dis­par­i­ties in tech­nol­o­gy access at home and in the classroom.

Every child in the Unit­ed States should have the basics, and fam­i­lies should have sup­port to sur­vive the con­sid­er­able stress and pain of these times,” added Hamil­ton. Our lead­ers can respond to the COVID-19 cri­sis by putting equi­ty first, pri­or­i­tiz­ing children’s phys­i­cal and men­tal health, help­ing fam­i­lies achieve finan­cial sta­bil­i­ty and strength­en­ing schools so kids can thrive in spite of the extra­or­di­nary times.”

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