The COVID-19 pandemic impacts children both physically and mentally. Even if ailments from the virus remain statistically low, children go through a range of issues and emotions due to the disruption of daily life routines and the loss of social contacts. When the care and protection of their caregivers becomes unstable, or in the worst case is lost, a child’s levels of stress and fear increase--which can also lead to trauma.
The indirect impact of COVID-19 is that children miss out on many of their fundamental rights. This includes school closures, cuts in social services for children and families in vulnerable situations or reduced capacity of the system to ensure safeguards against domestic violence, abuse and neglect during lockdown.
Children who cannot live with their parents and are in alternative care are having additional challenges. From our work with these children in many countries, we know that the lockdown is already restricting or even eliminating visits from their family of origin. This undermines children’s emotional well-being, sense of belonging and ability to keep close ties with their families until they are ready to leave care and live together again. In some cases, alternative care facilities are rapidly closed and children are reintegrated into their family of origin without adequate assessments and due process, exposing them to the risk of abuse and neglect.
The direct impact is on children’s physical and mental health. SOS Children’s Villages International is closely following the situation of children in alternative care, families at risk of separation and the necessary measures to support them through this crisis. This includes raising awareness of governments, public authorities and care service providers and implementing tailor-made solutions with the help of qualified care professionals and partners.
It is important that children have resources to be resilient and are able to cope with consequences of COVID-19. It is therefore essential that caregivers help children to develop these resources.
In Italy, for example, SOS Children’s Villages professionals who work with children in alternative care have helped them to express their emotions and hopes through drawings and colorful messages. These were exchanged with their peers in other countries where we operate, creating an international network of solidarity across Greece, Denmark, Syria, Lebanon, Bolivia, Peru and many more countries. The children have also drawn comics to promote information on COVID-19, how to fight it and to cope with fears.
Below you can find some additional resources to ensure the care and protection of children in alternative care and families at risk during the COVID-19 pandemic: