Currently, COVID-19 is affecting Missouri’s families in extraordinary ways. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic will become more evident over time in all aspects of the lives of Missouri’s children. Missouri KIDS COUNT (MKC), an annual snapshot on the well-being of the state’s children first released in 1993, includes indicators tracked longitudinally and collected and analyzed prior to the COVID-19 crisis.
While the data on the well-being of Missouri’s children shows a generally positive trajectory, in light of the pandemic, the 2020 MKC release will serve as a baseline for tracking the fallout of the infection and the policies implemented to manage its spread.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children and teens are among those most likely to react more strongly to stress during an infectious disease outbreak. Parents and caregivers may notice some of the following:
- Fear and worry about their health or the health of their loved ones
- Changes in sleep or eating patterns
- Difficulty sleeping or concentrating
- Worsening of chronic health problems
In order to support the physical and mental well-being of children during the outbreak, parents and caregivers are encouraged to talk with their children often, providing reassurance and answering any questions they may have. Share suggestions for how they can deal with their emotions and concerns. Try and keep a consistent routine in place for them and avoid overstimulating them with too much news or social media. And be open to using community resources to assist if they find themselves out of work or in need of food assistance.
Before the outbreak, data indicated that from an economic perspective, fewer Missouri children were living in poverty in 2018 as compared to 2014. Child homelessness, however, increased by more than 17% over that same time period. We know that kids living in underserved, higher poverty, less-resourced areas of Missouri are already at higher risk for worse outcomes. Over time, the COVID-19 pandemic will provide a stark contrast between those parts of Missouri with easy access to resources versus those without.
“Like we anticipate of the COVID-19 virus itself, we expect the impact of the pandemic will affect Missouri’s children and families in waves. Today we are focused on ensuring children are safe in their homes as well as in childcare to allow our essential workforce to serve and protect Missourians. Down the road, we anticipate the economic impact on Missouri families will be substantial for many. The primary goal of Missouri KIDS COUNT is to provide trustworthy, accurate information to support the unprecedented challenges faced by our local and state policymakers and providers.”, said Tracy Greever-Rice, FACT’s KIDS COUNT Program Director.
While some indicators of physical well-being improved between 2014 and 2018, preventable hospitalizations and child deaths between the ages of 1 and 14 decreased, the indicators that worsened are concerning. These indicators include low birthweight infants and an increasing adolescent death rate, importantly attributable to an increase in suicides. The number of young people under age 20 who committed suicide doubled during this five-year period. We are concerned that this growing problem will be exacerbated by the economic impact on job and educational opportunities created by the COVID-19 crisis.
In addition to the state’s current battle against COVID-19, the 2020 decennial census is under way, intended to count all people living in the U.S. State leaders have expressed concern because around 10% of Missouri’s children live in hard-to-count areas. For every person not counted in the census, Missouri will lose $1,300 per person in federal funds each year. Much of the funding goes to programs that support Missouri’s kids. Information about the census in Missouri can be found at https://census.mo.gov/. There are more ways than ever for households to take part in the census, including online, by phone, or through the mail.
FACT is Missouri’s KIDS COUNT affiliate. It is the state level, private/public organization that governs a network of 20 Community Partnerships focused on achieving better results for children and families. To read data informed stories and access specific data and information about the well-being of children in Missouri visit mokidscount.org.