There are alarming indications that the situation of children has deteriorated significantly since the coronavirus crisis began, according to a NBC News study of child welfare metrics released on Tuesday.
One of the most concerning signs is that there has been a 24% increase in mental health-related visits to emergency rooms from children ages 5 to 11 compared to last year, with such visits by older children rising at an even worse 31%
There has also been an increase of six million hungry children compared to before the pandemic, with an estimated 17 million kids now in danger of not having enough to eat.
Children have also suffered a downturn in schooling, with one national testing organization reporting that the average student in grades 3-8 who took a math assessment this fall was 5 to 10 percentile points behind those who took the same exam last year. Black, Hispanic, and poor students have had even a steeper decline in test scores.
Some school districts report that there has been double the number of students who have missed at least 10% of classes, which studies indicate could lead to serious lifelong consequences.
In addition, an estimated three million vulnerable students, such as those who are homeless or have disabilities, appear to not be in school at all.
Although some numbers in the study are encouraging — such as a drop in drug and alcohol use among youth, as well as less juvenile arrest and incarceration rates — Barbara Duffield, an expert on homeless children, said that the overall report adds up to a developing catastrophe, especially with even more families at risk of losing their homes to eviction or foreclosure.
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