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These are unprecedented times for all of us. Each day the conditions and reach of the pandemic change and so do we, in ways we sense, but can’t identify or voice just yet. In response, we have changed the format of this edition of the newsletter to focus on the impact of COVID-19 on girls, gender-expansive young people, women, and the people and organizations that support them. Much of the information included in this edition is focused specifically on girls and gender-expansive youth and some of it highlights trends and information that we know will ultimately have a disparate impact on them. This is hard information to share and equally difficult to hear and for this reason, we have also included resources for health and healing. It is easy in times of crisis to focus on taking care of others, but each of you is needed to continue the fight to achieve justice for girls and gender-expansive youth. So take care of yourself and remember the words of Audre Lorde, “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

IN BRIEF

“Disasters last a really long time in the lives of children” (Alice Fothergill, The Atlantic).

While coronavirus is considered less of a threat to kids than to adults and the elderly, the disease can still be extremely dangerous for infants and those with pre-existing medical conditions. Kids can also transmit the disease to more vulnerable adults. However, illness is only one risk of the current crisis. For children faced with school and daycare closures, quarantine can cause, “very significant negative costs in the form of child abuse, domestic violence, hunger and long-term educational and behavioral health problems,” according to Judith Sandlow, executive director of the Children’s Law Center in D.C. At the same time, shelter in place orders have “hampered investigations of child abuse” and made it difficult for caseworkers to check-in on kids involved with Child Protective Services–while for caseworkers still making critical home visits, concerns about spreading or contracting the virus are high. Advocates are also concerned about the impacts social distancing could have on children in the foster care systemTelehealth and virtual home visiting programs may help mitigate potential harms.

Across the country, schools that have shut down are still working to feed kids who depend on free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch programs–providing critical support to low-income families, but still falling short: “I’m not going to let my kids go hungry. If I have to just eat once a day, that’s what I have to do,” says a mother of six in Texas. While the CARES Act includes direct payments to low-income families, it does not include a SNAP benefit increase or TANF emergency fund for families facing food insecurity. Moreover, “millions of low-income households that don’t otherwise have to file a tax return will need to file to receive the payments, and certain immigrant families — including many with children who are U.S. citizens — are ineligible.”

In San Francisco, Emma Mayerson, executive director of Alliance for Girls, writes that “girls from low-income families also depend on schools for period products,” which the Oakland Unified School District started providing, along with other personal hygiene products, after the Alliance for Girls co-led Oakland Girls Collaborative brought it to the district’s attention. Shortages of menstrual products are already being reported across the country. According to Child Trends, “school-based health centers provide primary and preventative health care, chronic disease management, dental care, and mental health services to over 6 million students in over 10,000 schools in the United States.” Child Trends published recommendations for schools districts that have closed on supporting the health and well-being of students during this pandemic.

In New York City, school closures and online learning are complicated for 10-year-old Allia Phillips and over 100,000 other students who are homeless and don’t have access to the internet or web-enabled devices–adding to the fact that proper social distancing “is very difficult if not impossible to achieve in [our] shelters.”

recent review of research on the psychological implications of quarantine found that “most studies reported negative psychological effects including post-traumatic stress symptoms.” These effects are compounded by exposure to other adversities like domestic violence, child abuse, neglect, homelessness, and the loss of loved onesIsolation can also be a trigger for many people and amplify suicidal ideations. Examinations of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and other natural disasters show that kids exposed to Hurricane Katrina were “more likely to suffer emotional disturbances than other kids, even years later.” As Van Newkirk writes in The Atlantic, “all the evidence suggests that children—and poor children especially—will bear an incredible burden during the coronavirus pandemic and the attendant economic shocks.” Child Trends recently released a set of recommendations for supporting the emotional well-being of children during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“For many women and girls, the threat looms largest where they should be safest — in their own homes,” (António Guterres, NPR).

Across the country, “stay at home” orders pose an increasing threat to women, girls, and gender-expansive young people exposed to domestic violence. Social workers who spoke to ProPublica expressed concern that the financial stresses coming out of this pandemic, “will further stress households prone to violence” –  a reality that was seen after the financial crisis of 2008, and immediately after 9/11, Hurricane Sandy, and Hurricane Katrina. Upticks in domestic violence have already been reported in ChinaItaly, and Spain in response to coronavirus quarantines. The U.N. is “calling on governments around the world to make addressing the issue a key part of their response to the pandemic.”

While some domestic violence shelters and programs are considered “essential services” and are still open in many states, “many domestic violence service providers are not seeing as many clients in person because of the virus, and are pivoting their services to hotlines, phone consultations and virtual sessions.” Such services can be difficult or dangerous for individuals to use while at home with an abusive household member. Advocates are also concerned about police responses to 911 calls about domestic violence during quarantine, whether victims who need medical attention should avoid hospitals, and the potential spread of the virus within shelter facilities. Leaders at organizations that provide support to victims and survivors of domestic violence are also worried about fundraising if the economy continues to worsen and events keep getting canceled.  Teen Vogue recently released an article with recommendations on what to do if you’re isolated with an abuser during this pandemic.

“Continuing to maintain these youths in this hotbed of contagion poses an unconscionable and entirely preventable risk of harm,” (Legal Aid, The Appeal)

Advocates across the country are urging for the release of children and young people held in juvenile and immigration detention centers to mitigate the exposure to and spread of the coronavirus. According to The Appeal, “there are some 43,000 minors  in varying degrees of state-run detention in the United States, and another 3,500 immigrant children in the care of the federal government.” While not specifically called out in The Appeal, data from the Easy Access to the Census of Juveniles in Residential Placement: 1997-2017 identifies nearly 6,600 of those minors as female. Josh Rover, Senior Advocacy Associate at the Sentencing Project, has been keeping track of COVID-19 cases among detained youth and staff at juvenile facilities. He reports that 36 youth, at minimum, have tested positive for coronavirus, while 46 cases of the virus have been identified among staff at juvenile facilities. Four children in immigration detention have tested positive for COVID-19, along with seven employees of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, who work in facilities in New Jersey and Texas.

Along with reducing youth detention, advocates recommend limiting or suspending charges for telephone and video services in detention settings, an expansion of e-learning capabilities, regular health checks, and ensured access to hygienic materials. In New York City, teenagers held in juvenile detention facilities are suing the city’s child welfare chief, calling for the release of at least 10 young people ages 10-17. The lawsuit emphasizes that social isolation measures are “effectively impossible in juvenile detention centers,” that the end of family visits causes emotional harm, and that three staffers working in juvenile detention facilities in New York City have tested positive for COVID-19. A new report from the Justice Collaborative and Data for Progress shows bipartisan voter support for releasing children from juvenile detention during this pandemic.

“Inequalities in health and in the economy are products of a patriarchal system that devalues and exploits girls. During emergencies, the system doubles down,” (With and For Girls, COVID-19 and Girls’ Rights: A Series).

In a global-focused series on girls’ rights amid COVID-19, With and For Girls emphasizes the need to provide tailored messaging for girls, use technology and other means to minimize their isolation, make concrete plans to support girls socio-economically and psychologically, and provide direct cash-transfers to girls throughout the crisis. According to the series and lessons learned from other health crises like Ebola, girls are disproportionately exposed to exploitation during economic downturns and are more susceptible to abuse when trapped in dysfunctional home environments under quarantine.

Research from the Kaiser Family Foundation finds significant gender differences in awareness and responses to coronavirus: women are more concerned than men about getting sick and losing income, more likely to report negative mental health effects as a result of the pandemic, and are more proactive about taking precautions. Researchers from Northwestern University analyzing the impact of the pandemic on gender equality find that women will be disproportionately impacted economically. As the National Women’s Law Center notes, “women are on the front-lines of defense against COVID-19,” disproportionately occupying roles as nurses, caregivers, child care providers and comprising the overwhelming majority of service-industry jobs in restaurants, retail, and hotels.

While telemedicine is providing critical alternative care and keeping hospitals open for coronavirus patients and emergencies, patients seeking abortion services have few options. In Texas, abortion clinics have been deemed “non-essential” and have been forced to close, and anti-abortion advocates are lobbying the federal government to shut down abortion provision during the pandemic. In a nation already boasting the worst maternal mortality rate in the developed world, with disproportionately high-levels among black women and women of color, “many birth workers are concerned that efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic will have unintended consequences on mothers and infants that will only become visible after the pandemic ends.”

Nonprofits and Coronavirus

As the country continues to deal with the implications of the current health crisis and economic downturn, nonprofit organizations are struggling to continue providing critical services and survive. “Everyone is losing revenue, and many have skyrocketing demand. You do the math,” said Tim Delaney, executive director of the National Council for Nonprofits. A survey of nonprofit leaders conducted by the Nonprofit Institute at the University of San Diego reveals that many organizations are already seeing immediate consequences of the pandemic. Overwhelmingly, respondents reported reductions in normal services, inability to offer programming, and a need to move services online.

RESOURCES FOR NONPROFITS

*Note: implementation of COVID-19 legislation is changing rapidly, be sure to check the most recent information available.

RESOURCES FOR HEALTH & HEALING