|Philly Kids & Teens are Reeling from COVID’s Impact
“We’re not thriving. We’re just surviving.” This is the heartbreaking reality of 16-year-old Fatoumata Sidibe since COVID upended her normal teenage life.
COVID took a tremendous toll on children and teens, dramatically affecting their mental health, K-12 and early education, and security. A new Children First report, COVID’s Impact on Philadelphia Children: The Case for an Ambitious Rebound, details just how deep that toll is.
Kids suffered a tremendous emotional and mental strain as a result of social isolation, family stress, and soaring gun violence, as is evidenced by the 62% spike in calls from Philadelphia youth to the statewide suicide hotline. At least those kids knew about the hotline; many others just suffered in silence.
Mikayla Jones, a soon-to-be senior at Central High, didn’t even know there was a counselor at her school. “It was at the end of the school year the first time I met my counselor. I walked into her office and I just cried. She didn’t even know my name.”
Remote learning heightened their emotional turmoil and failed them academically. Reading proficiency among second to fifth graders in Philly public schools dramatically declined, a bad trend in a district where 73% of students are already failing to meet basic English and math targets pre-COVID.
Preschool children also felt the impact of COVID. Nearly 12,000 Philadelphia children were shut out of their early education because there are 1,500 fewer child care workers to staff their classrooms since COVID.
To make matters worse, the federal life preservers that kept families afloat and slashed the child poverty rate have since expired. These supports lifted more than 16,000 Philadelphia children out of poverty, and unless Congress takes action quickly, those kids could fall back.
COVID’s Impact on Philadelphia Children: The Case for an Ambitious Rebound is a clarion call for change. (Reports on the suburban counties will be released in September.)
Mikayla, Fatoumata, Dr. Tony Watlington, the new SDP superintendent; Dr. Ala Stanford, Regional Director, U.S. Department of Human Services; Kimberly Ali, Philadelphia Department of Human Services Commissioner and two Philly dads echoed the findings of the report and joined us in making the case for change at a community forum on Monday.
Check out the recording here – it’s a great watch!
Without question the pandemic made the lives of every child in Philadelphia harder in the short-term; for far too many, the long-term consequences are likely to stunt opportunity throughout their lives
Healing from this pandemic will take much more than a medical solution. It will require federal, state, and local policies and resources to cure the lasting effects of the pandemic on children. See the report for our recommendations.