The ‘new normal’ remains challenging for California families and children, especially children with special health care needs

Encinitas, Calif., November 15, 2022—Children with special health care needs in California still face significant COVID-related challenges nearly three years into the pandemic, new findings from investigation. And parents and caregivers across the state are worried about their children’s safety and academic success as public health orders ease and students return to school.

These form part of the conclusions of the Family experiences during the investigation of the COVID-19 pandemic released today by PRB’s KidsData program. The survey, the latest in a series that began in November 2020, has been verified four times with parents and caregivers to track the changing impact of the pandemic on families.

The latest findings show lingering challenges for California families, despite suggestions that life has returned to “normal.” In June, a third of parents and caregivers statewide (33%) said they often felt nervous or stressedcompared to 29% in July 2021. Almost half (45%) said their household finances had been negatively affected since the start of the pandemic, compared to 32% a year earlier. And more than half (58%) said they were worried about their children’s safety as public health measures, such as masking mandates, eased. Rates of concern were even higher in households with children with special health care needs.

“The data underscores the fact that life has not returned to normal for many families across California and that the lingering effects of the pandemic will be felt for many years to come,” said program director Beth Jarosz. for KidsData. “Researchers, policymakers and social service organizations must continue to monitor these impacts so that families can receive the support they need.”

Among households with children with special health care needs (CSHCN), parents and caregivers were concerned about their children’s mental health, even though they reported that their children were more likely to receive counseling if needed. In the June survey, 54% said they were concerned about the mental health of the oldest child in the household, up from 62% a year earlier, but about double the rate of households without CSHCN (28%).

“Families’ lived experiences are a powerful reminder that California programs and policies can do more to meet the needs of children with special health care needs,” said Holly Henry, program director for CSHCN. at the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health (LPFCH). “The data gives us direct insight into the challenges of our most marginalized children and families.”

Survey data for California, as well as seven regions in the state, is available at kidsdata.org. At the state level, results are broken down by family income, race and ethnicity, and the presence of children with special health care needs in the household.

The Family Experiences During the COVID-19 Pandemic Questionnaire was developed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, in collaboration with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Prevent Child Abuse America, and Tufts Medical Center’s Healthy Outcomes from Positive Experiences. An oversample of the questionnaire for California was funded by LPFCH, the California Essentials for Childhood Initiative, and the California Department of Public Health’s Office of Suicide Prevention.

The national survey tracked the impact of the pandemic over time by administering questionnaires to adults with care responsibilities for children aged 0-17 in November 2020, March 2021 and July 2021 (KidsData analyzed the California data). The fourth questionnaire was administered only in California in June 2022 by YouGov. Results are based on approximately 1,550 responses from each time period and are weighted to reflect caregivers of children under 18 in California.

About PRB
PRB promotes and supports evidence-based policy, practice, and decision-making to improve the health and well-being of people around the world. Learn more at prb.org. Follow us on twitter @PRBdata.

For more on the health and well-being of children in California, follow KidsData on Twitter @Kidsdata.

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