April 5 (UPI) -- An estimated 40,000 children in the United States have lost a parent to COVID-19 and may be in need of support, according to a statistical model developed by Penn State.
The model, announced Monday, shows the impact uniquely felt in young community from COVID-19.
Pennsylvania State University researchers who built the model encouraged communities to open resources to survivors.
"The first thing we need to do is to proactively connect all children to the available supports they are entitled to, like Social Security child survivor benefits. Research shows only about half of eligible children are connected to these programs in normal circumstances, but that those who do fare much better," Ashton Verdery, associate professor at Penn State, said in a press release.
For every 13 COVID-19 deaths, a child loses a parent. In comparison, about 3,000 children lost a parent in terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, after which the federal government initiated several programs to support those families.
Verdery suggests intervention to stave off psychological distress among children who have lost parents.Researchers pointed out teachers also have a front-line role in educating and supporting children, but online classes have sidelined that engagement in many areas of the country. Lack of socialization between children and their families makes it difficult to recognize those who are affected by the pandemic.
More than 1.5 billions students worldwide have been out of school at some point since the pandemic began over a year ago.
If the tragedy of losing a parent weren't enough, families are also being threatened with being split up if a responsible guardian does not step up. This has reportedly led to more older siblings stepping into a support role.
"We have families that want to stay together and need to stay together, both for the younger children for stability in terms of their school, their home, their community, their mental health, but also for the person who is stepping in as that caregiver," Tara Sheoren-Khaimov, an attorney at Lawyers for Children, which helps older siblings take a guardian role, told ABC News.
Data indicate the impact of COVID-19 fatalities on mental well-being is being felt more in minority communities.
While the Black population in the United States numbers 14 percent, an estimated 20 percent, or 8,000 deaths, were Black parents.
UCLA previously reported the mental health crisis linked to the pandemic is having an outsize impact on the Black community, as well.
Similarly, Hispanic and Black demographics have seen a much higher hospitalization rate after contracting the virus.In New York, the state's population is only 18 percent Black, but Black New Yorkers have accounted for 33 percent of COVID-19 hospitalizations.
Researchers have pointed to income disparity as a direct link between those more affected by COVID-19 outcomes.