CLC Executive Director Judith Sandalow spoke with the D.C. Policy Center to emphazise the importance of mental health supports for students while DC schools are closed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Every child, like every adult, is feeling some combination of grief, loss and anxiety because of the pandemic. Fear of COVID-19. New routines – or no routines. Missing friends and teachers. Absorbing their parents’ stress.
Many children have additional stressors: hunger, long hours in small, crowded apartments, domestic violence, child abuse, parents who risk infection on frontline jobs.
Mental health support is even harder to provide right now. And for children to be healthy, they and their parents need access to it. School-based mental health programs have done the best job of staying in touch with students given the circumstances. However, the children – and parents – most in need of support often live in small apartments where families are doubled up, leaving little room for private conversation. Inadequate technology or internet is also a barrier.
The District should bring schools, parents and mental health providers together now to plan a return to school that puts social emotional support front and center. Without that, we cannot expect children to focus on academics this fall.