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We’ve talked about mental health problems as the second wave of COVID-19. But there’s another long-term consequence of the pandemic.

In 1852, when Beech Brook opened its doors, it was to care for children orphaned by the cholera epidemic. Sixty-six years later, there were the orphans of the Spanish Flu pandemic.

Fast forward 104 years. As of October 2021, as many as 5.2 million children worldwide had lost a parent, grandparent or caregiver to the COVID-19 pandemic. Those tragic statistics were reported in a study, published February 24 in the medical journal The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health.

In the U.S., about 150,000 children had lost a parent, custodial grandparent or primary caregiver to the disease in that time period. There were racial, ethnic, and geographic disparities as well. Children of racial and ethnic minorities accounted for 65% of those who lost a primary caregiver due to the pandemic.

As an earlier study had noted:

“Children’s lives are permanently changed by the loss of a mother, father, or grandparent who provided their homes, basic needs, and care. Loss of a parent is among the adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) linked to mental health problems; shorter schooling; lower self-esteem; sexual risk behaviors; and increased risk of substance abuse, suicide, violence, sexual abuse, and exploitation.”

That's no surprise to us at Beech Brook. We've been treating traumatized children like these for 170 years. The orphanage days are long gone. But we're still here, and we'll be here as long as there are children who need us. And it seems like right now, they need us more than ever.

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