While health experts continue following the latest COVID trends, advocates are working to help families deal with what the CDC is calling a hidden pandemic.
Children orphaned by COVID-19.
A study released in October estimated more than 140,000 children have lost caregivers to the virus. NBC 5 shared the story of the Cruz family this week.
Relatives are raising money to help care for two children while their older sister fights for her life in the hospital and after their parents died within weeks of one another.
Many children who’ve lost parents and grandparents are now being cared for by other relatives. A director from Buckner International's Family Hope Center says their team wants to be a support system for grieving families.
“We actually have two families I'm thinking about right now, who actually lost their dad. And by him being the primary provider for the family, it was devastating,” said Cheryl Williams.
Williams is the director of Buckner’s Family Hope Center at Wynnewood in South Dallas.
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She says during the pandemic they've helped families with grief counseling, food and rent assistance along with other sudden costs.
“We were able to provide for the funeral expenses for the family, even to a point where a lady said I need a dress, I don't have a dress to wear to the funeral. So, we were able to provide those things,” Williams said.
The wraparound services are part of their mission to keep families stable.
Staff at the Family Hope Centers work to strengthen families and prevent neglect in an effort to keep children from being removed from their homes.
They do so by offering supportive programs that provide meals, toys for the holidays, financial counseling, parenting classes and other offerings.
Williams says they’re offering that same support to families rocked by COVID-19.
“Families that were already experiencing, I don't know where my next meal is coming from and so on and then the pandemic happens,” said Williams.
Advocates say they’ve heard from some relatives who have stepped up to take care of children orphaned by COVID who don't know where to turn for help
“You haven't been here before, but you're taking in your niece and your nephew,” Williams said.
She wants them to know, they don't have to walk alone.
“Buckner again is providing the emotional support, the financial support, as you are treading through uncharted territory,” Williams said.
Buckner knows that grieving families are often overwhelmed, so they rely on family friends, neighbors, coworkers, and other community members to spread the word about the wraparound services available.
You can find more information here.