NCFR Board of Directors Statement on COVID-19, Family Diversity, and Family Well-Being
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted millions of Americans, yet it is increasingly clear that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC), including Latinx immigrant communities, have been hit the hardest, with significantly more illness, hospitalizations, and death than White communities. The emerging disparities reflect the entrenched structural inequalities that persist in the United States, placing an unequal and unjust disease burden on racial and ethnic minoritized communities.
The NCFR Board of Directors is concerned about emergent disparities based on one’s family configuration. Research demonstrates that families matter for health. The systematic privileging of married, heterosexual, two-parent nuclear families over other family forms has resulted in unequal COVID-19 related economic and health burdens, as well as unequitable policy solutions. For example, economic relief packages include more money for married couples who file their taxes jointly than single parents or non-marital couples and additional financial support for the children of married couples. Single parents (largely headed by women) and young parents who were already experiencing economic hardships prior to the pandemic, are facing greater hardships during the current economic recession. Food insecurity has doubled by some estimates. Single parents and other families who cannot work remotely face significant childcare challenges. Even among families whose members can work remotely, K-12 school offerings, whether hybridized or 100% virtual, will no doubt continue to stymie parents’ ability to “do it all” as full-time workers and care providers.
While staying at home has been the safest place for many during the pandemic, victims of domestic violence, including intimate partner violence and child abuse and neglect, are at increased risk as a result of social distancing and quarantine. Children are specifically vulnerable to abuse during COVID-19 due in part to increased stress levels among parents and diminished resources and supports. Before the pandemic, an adult survivor or victim could flee a violent situation or file a protective order with the police. Many of these options are unavailable right now.
Researchers suggest that the COVID-19 pandemic is also having a disproportionately negative effect on women and their employment opportunities, with more women than men losing their jobs; this is especially true among Black, Latina, and immigrant women. Yet the U.S. government has determined that citizens, including children, related to undocumented immigrants are not eligible for COVID-19 economic relief Immigrant workers are among those essential workers on the front lines who are keeping food chains, caregiving, and other services operational. The uneven distribution of aid has increased vulnerabilities and insecurities among immigrant families who are already confronting economic and health disparities during this pandemic.
Given the complexities and diversities of family experiences, the NCFR Board urges our members—scholars, educators, and practitioners—to continue to raise awareness, disseminate family research, and build interventions to address the disparate economic and health burdens shouldered by BIPOC, immigrant communities, and other families rendered vulnerable because of social inequalities. More research is needed to understand the full array of unintended—and potentially life or death—consequences of laws, policies, and practices during the COVID-19 pandemic that have resulted in family health inequities and undue suffering. More research is needed to document COVID-related resilience processes among diverse families as well.
This is a call to action. Valuing diverse families should include efforts at every level of our society to reduce systemic and structural inequalities and advance equitable laws, policies, and practices—especially during the COVID-19 pandemic—that promote and protect the health and well-being of all families.
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