September 8, 2020
How Does COVID-19 Affect Early Childhood Development?
WithinReach believes that all children should be able to grow, learn and thrive to reach their full potential. We know that healthy development means all children, especially those furthest from opportunity, are able to grow up with their social, emotional and educational needs met. A safe home, access to nutritious food, quality health care and the ability to spend time with family are important to building a strong foundation for life.
In addition, we also know that systemic, racial and social barriers prevent too many children from being healthy and thriving to their fullest potential. Unfortunately, there are children who do go hungry, who do not have safe and stable housing, and who do experience racism as a social determinant of health. Today, we see these barriers increasing as the COVID-19 pandemic persists and families and communities are feeling its impact in very real ways. Since the pandemic, impacts on early childhood development include:
- An increase in food insecurity, with 2 in 5 children households (with mothers with children 12 and under) being food insecure or lacking access to adequate food.
- The risk of children developing “severe” symptoms from COVID-19, with Hispanic and Black children being much more likely to require hospitalization for COVID-19.
- An increase in parents reporting mental health difficulties, as well as increases in young child behavior problems.
WithinReach Board member, physician at Swedish Pediatrics in Edmonds and past president of Washington Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Rupin Thakkar has seen firsthand how COVID-19 impacts children’s development.
“As a pediatrician, the most common question I hear now is how to promote children’s social and emotional development while practicing social distancing and remote learning. I do my best to provide creative ideas; but, frankly, these ideas are far more difficult to implement for families who struggle to meet their children’s basic needs such as food, housing, health care and education,” said Thakkar.
“The deep racial disparities in basic needs produced by decades of systemic racism are now further exacerbated by our pandemic response. This forces us to think even further out of the box on how we can support parents in promoting their children’s social and emotional development.”
The COVID-19 pandemic is shining a light on how important it is for families to be able to access the resources they need, when they need them. For over 30 years, WithinReach has been working to make it easier for families and children to access all the resources they need to thrive.
That is why WithinReach’s Learning Series event on September 16 will focus on what is missing in the conversation about early childhood development. We hope to challenge our partners, advocates and community to learn more about systems of support for families – through a conversation framed in both science and social inequities – and the actions we can take to move health for all forward. Moderated by WithinReach CEO Kay Knox, we will host a panel discussion with three early childhood development key leaders, Dr. Shaquita Bell, Dr. Sarah R. Lytle and Dr. Debra Ren-Etta Sullivan.