How can recovery from the pandemic begin for children that have been impacted the most? When we envision what it will take for communities to be protected from the virus, be relieved of economic devastation, and begin healing, our attention must be on the equitable distribution of the vaccine and the immense mental health needs of children.
Distributing the vaccine to communities most devastated by the pandemic is essential for children’s health.
- Black and Latinx people have experienced the most infections and deaths from the virus, but data shows they have been vaccinated at disproportionately lower rates. If those who care for children are not receiving the vaccine, it is unlikely that their children will once it is available for them. And all other aspects of recovery–businesses reopening, students returning to school, and more–will fall behind if vaccines are not distributed justly or equitably. This will only deepen the impacts this crisis has had on communities of color and the harm it has done to children.
Our partners are critical to vaccine equity.
- The healthcare providers in our partner programs serve neighborhoods that have been deeply affected. Right now, many are doing all they can to ensure their communities receive the vaccine, amidst challenges with supply, staff shortages, and other logistics. Mobile clinics and community health centers are a vital part of this effort, because they make it easier for people to access care. And these providers are trusted figures in their communities and important messengers to inform patients, answer questions, and help them feel empowered in their decisions around the vaccine.
The pandemic has not only caused a physical health crisis, but a mental health emergency for children as well.
- Tragically, those who have experienced the most infections–Black and brown families–are also experiencing overwhelming mental health effects and trauma, including children. There are many reasons for this: financial strain from job loss, leading kids to experience food insecurity and increased risk of houselessness; grief from the loss of loved ones and high COVID infection rates; and isolation from friends and supportive school communities. These factors also increase stress in the home and mental health concerns for caregivers, which make it harder to address children’s needs. Unaddressed trauma can cause long-lasting impacts on the brain. With limited mental health resources available for children, we are worried that many will not get the care they need.
Our partners are on the front lines of children’s mental health.
- Our National Network partners and our Healthy and Ready to Learn program are seeing many more mental health needs in children and youth compared to before the pandemic. But there is a shortage of pediatric mental healthcare providers in these communities, especially if children do not have health insurance or live in rural areas. So providers often act as the first line of defense for kids’ mental health. They know the immense challenges children and their families are facing, so they screen children for depression, anxiety, and trauma. Still, providers are overwhelmed by the urgency of the situation. “It’s such a monumental task to find out what the needs are,” said one provider, “This is a growing concern and it will not go away quickly.”
With the help of generous friends like you, in 2020 our COVID fund helped to deliver screening and testing to more than one million individuals; helped our National Network of providers to strengthen their telehealth programs; provided families in Harlem and the Bronx with financial assistance to help meet basic needs; and so much more.
The healthcare providers, educators, and caregivers we support are the true heroes of the last year. They have been through more than anyone could have imagined, but have stayed committed. With your support, we can continue to help them nurture the health and wellbeing of children.