New Generations United Report Highlights Grandfamilies’ Struggles with Food Insecurity

Existing help for food insecure families tends to assume kids live with parents, not grandparents, and should be fixed to reflect reality. 

Hunger hurts. Just ask Alice Carter. When she got a call from the Wyoming Department of Family Services (DFS) telling her that her daughter’s parental rights had been severed from her grandson, the department asked if Alice would take him. Without hesitating, she stepped up to raise him and later her granddaughter, too. Her decision was transformative and kept her grandchildren out of foster care. 

At the time, Alice was a welder, a job that paid good money but required her to travel to work sites. Raising her grandchildren meant she had to quit her job because she couldn’t find reliable care for them while she was away at job locations. Alice lost her home because she couldn’t pay rent, and for more than a year, they lived in her car and struggled to find food. 

“I tried to appear at friends’ houses around dinner time so they would include my grandchildren. Sometimes people would give us food that had been in their refrigerator for two weeks, but it was better than nothing. Someone gave us a bag of oranges and we ate nothing but oranges for four days,” Alice says.

Sadly, Alice’s story is not unique. Generations United’s new report sheds light on families like Alice’s. It examines why grandfamilies, families in which children are raised by relatives or family friends without their parents in the home, often face high rates of hunger and food insecurity and recommends ways our policies can better support them. 

The findings are startling. Generations United’s 2022 State of Grandfamilies report found that between 2019 and 2020, 25% of grandparent-headed households with grandchildren and no parent present experienced food insecurity. This is more than twice the national rate. It’s also 60% higherthan that of all households with children (25% vs. 15%). Yet at the same time, in 2019 less than half of low-income grandfamilies accessed the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program known as SNAP.

In the report, grandfamily caregivers share personal experiences and struggles with feeding their families. The impact is severe and can harm the health, nutrition and economic security of children and adults.

“You know, if you only have $10 to spend, you really can’t afford to go out and buy stuff for a healthy salad. You can buy beans and rice and chicken nuggets,” says Kathy Coleman, a grandfamily caregiver and director of the Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Resource Center of Louisiana.

“It would be a whole lot cheaper, but it’s not really beneficial to the children. But when you’re in that situation, where all you’re trying to do is feed these little babies’ hungry tummies, you do whatever you can to stretch your money and, to be quite honest, sometimes it’s not the most nutritional food.”

Factors Putting Grandfamilies at Risk

Grandfamilies are at increased risk of food insecurity due to factors such as poverty, racial discrimination, disability, marriage status, employment status, geography and accessibility. 

More than half (54%) of grandparent-headed households live in the South—states that tend to have food insecurity rates above the national average. Moreover, a large number of grandparent-headed households live in rural areas and are likely to experience food insecurity at a higher rate, in part because food sources often are further away from home and transportation options are sparse.

Due to cultural values and proud traditions, grandfamilies are disproportionately African American, American Indian and Alaska Native, and, in some areas, Latino. Yet, years of systemic racism and discrimination have led to disproportionate rates of food insecurity, as well as difficulties accessing support systems and inequitable supports for grandfamily caregivers and the children they raise. Additionally, 31% of grandchildren being raised by their grandparents in a grandparent-headed household are living below the poverty level, compared to 16% of all children nationwide.

Grandfamilies Face Greater Barriers Accessing Federal Nutrition Programs 

Federal food and nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and free and reduced-price school meals serve as a lifeline for millions of families struggling with hunger and food insecurity, but many grandfamilies face unique challenges when trying to access these services.

Grandfamily caregiver Linda Lewis from Oklahoma lives off her Social Security benefit and receives Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). 

“It’s tight,” she says. “I have to buy school uniforms and shoes out of that, too. We get SNAP, but the benefit amount is low and that doesn’t go nowhere.”

Linda finds herself visiting food pantries once a month for additional support, along with receiving meals from Meals on Wheels, which she says is helpful. 

Children living with an unlicensed kinship foster care parent are not automatically eligible for WIC benefits, though they may be automatically eligible through other avenues. If a child has been receiving support from WIC while living with a parent, when a grandparent caregiver takes over raising the child, WIC benefits are not always easily transferred or given to the caregiver or child.

Though SNAP is beneficial for grandfamilies, the application process can be difficult to navigate. Eligibility is based on household income, with no option to base it on the income of the child only. Many grandfamilies have household incomes slightly too high to qualify or they have assets they’ve saved for retirement. 

“When you’re a grandparent or caregiver raising children who are not your own, you don’t always meet the low-income eligibility in their state to qualify for SNAP,” says Kathy. “And in doing so, it hinders you from having the ability to have the nutritious food that you want and enough food to feed the family.”

Policy Recommendations to Support Grandfamilies

We can and must take steps toward providing grandfamilies with access to these proven, cost-effective programs they need to increase their family’s food security. These include:

  • Create a “child-only” SNAP benefit that does not consider household income in making eligibility determinations and, instead, is based upon the income of the child only. Children shouldn’t be penalized because their grandparents built up assets for retirement.
  • Support the development and use of kinship navigator programs that provide information, referral and follow-up services to grandparents and other relatives raising children to link them to the benefits and supports that they and/or the children need. These programs work and should exist in every state.
  • Ensure automatic access to free and reduced-price school meals for children living in grandfamilies and help grandfamilies cover meal costs when school is out to help fill the meal gap during the summer when millions of children lose access to school meals.*
  • Creating joint meal programs for grandfamily caregivers and the children they raise. It was startling to learn during the pandemic that programs could deliver meals to older adults but not to the children living with them, and that programs could feed children but not the grandparents raising them who were standing beside them.

When children can’t be raised by their parents, they fare better with their grandparents than do children raised by nonrelatives in foster care. They have better mental health and behavioral health outcomes, higher levels of stability and a greater sense of belonging. They say they feel loved.  

As a nation, we must ensure that no grandfamily experiences hunger and food insecurity. Grandfamilies like Alice Carter’s must no longer feel isolated and alone as they step up to raise a relative’s or a friend’s children. Any grandfamily should know, immediately, where to go for help. And help should be easily accessible to them.

Learn more in Generations United’s 2022 State of Grandfamilies Report, Together at the Table: Improving the Nutrition, Health, and Well-Being of Grandfamilies.

Donna Butts is executive director of Generations United in Washington, DC.

*National PTA continues to champion free school meals for all children, particularly if they live in high poverty school districts through options such as the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) and allowing Medicaid direct certification to ensure automatic access to free school meals if a family already participates.

Related resources: Op-ed by National PTA President Anna King and Food Research & Action Center President Luis Guardia and National PTA letter to Senate Agriculture Committee on key child nutrition provisions to be included in the end-of-year appropriations package

3 Healthy Habits for the Holiday Season

Practice healthy habits for the holiday season!

As the weather begins to chill in parts of the country, Lysol and National PTA are looking forward to the special moments to come this time of the year! However, it’s important to remember the holiday months are also the start of cold & flu season. While your school communities prepare to celebrate with friends and family, make sure practicing healthy habits in schools remains top of mind for your family and classroom as we near holiday and winter festivities.

Keep the following tips in mind to help make your holiday celebrations as safe as possible:

  • Get your flu vaccination: One of the best ways to help slow the spread of seasonal, illness-causing germs is to receive your immunizations, like the flu shot. The CDC recommends anyone above the age of six months receive a flu shot every year.[1]
  • Wash your hands: When traveling, visiting others’ homes, or preparing for a gathering at your own house, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly and often. Taking the recommended twenty seconds will go a long way in helping to prevent the spread of illness-causing germs throughout your winter adventures.[2]
  • Disinfect High-Touch Classroom Surfaces: Lysol Disinfecting Wipes make it easy to clean and disinfect surfaces at home and in classrooms. Disinfect frequently touched areas from desks to door handles as directed to help protect your school from the spread of germs. This year, refer your school leaders to apply for free Lysol Disinfecting Wipes by visiting Frontline Impact Project.

For more information and resources on healthy habits, please visit Lysol.com/HERE or sign up for updates here. Wishing you and your loved ones a happy and healthy holiday season!


[1] CDC.org, “Who Needs a Flu Vaccine

[2] CDC.org, “12 Ways to Have a Healthy Holiday Season

Teaming Up for Safer Online Learning

Child Learning Online

Learning technologies are changing fast, accelerated by the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Students now spend a significant part of each day learning online and working with school-issued technology. In this new reality—where digital learning is pervasive and evolving—parents and schools must work together to keep kids safer online.

Digital learning is here to stay, so let’s make it safer!

Prior to the pandemic, 45% of American schools reported having a computer for every student. (NCES, 2021). Today, as many as 80% of K-12 students have and use a school-issued device, according to a recent national poll by Morning Consult.

Viewed one way, this is an extremely positive development: more digital access = more learning opportunities!

  • 93% of K-12 parents and 98% of educators agree that the internet is a useful tool that should be used to enhance learning.

Parents have understandable concerns about these new technologies, though.

  • 71% of K-12 parents report concerns about their child accessing explicit or harmful content on school-issued devices.
  • 80% of K-12 parents agree unrestricted internet access on school-issued devices can be harmful to student mental health.

Taken together, it’s understandable that:

  • 92% of parents believe it is necessary to have online educational technologies in place to prevent students from accessing harmful or explicit content.

See more findings from Morning Consult.

Thankfully, most schools do have internet safety plans these days.  In fact, schools are required under the Children’s Internet Protection Act to have an online safety program in order to receive certain funding. But, while these safeguards are critical, they aren’t necessarily enough.

“We need to get proactive now about internet safety… Completely banning the use of internet and social media is no longer a realistic option because a lot of schoolwork has transferred online… We all [parents, kids, and educators] need to educate ourselves and start productive dialogues.”

Maya Kruger, South Lake Middle PTSA, PTA Connected Smart Talk Participant

Safety starts with a conversation

Parents, teachers, and school administrators need to be on the same team to ensure students’ online safety as well as theirprivacy. That requires open and active communication.

As a parent and former educator himself, GoGuardian Head of Privacy and Data Policy Teddy Hartman understands the balancing act that school districts must navigate as they deploy technology intended to keep students safe while also maintaining transparency. “As a first step,” Teddy says, “schools should publicly share any education vendors they work with and the types of data privacy protections both the school system and vendor have in place.”

Beyond that, educators and parents can help one another by holding community dialogues about the school’s digital safety technology plan. 

Start a digital safety dialogue in your community

National PTA recently teamed up with GoGuardian to create a resource for parents who want to promote improved online safety in their child’s school.

Check out our resource: Protecting Students Online

Inside, you’ll find a list of questions you can ask to better understand your district’s current digital safety plans and to open a dialogue in your community.

We hope this information sparks healthy conversations that help school communities put quality tools and support systems in place to keep our kids safer in a changing digital world.

GoGuardian has been a Proud National Sponsor of PTA since 2018 and is supporting the release of our updated National Standards for Family-School Partnerships—going live this month! GoGuardian and the National PTA are committed to student success. Together, they are working to engage families and educators on solutions to best support student mental health and online safety.

Ask the Right Questions to Support Student Online Safety

November is Parent Involvement Month, and there are few topics needing our attention more than children’s online safety. But it’s not always easy to know where to begin. What type of digital safety measures should we expect schools to have in place? How do you know if your school or district is following best practices?

We can help! National PTA recently teamed up with education technology provider GoGuardian to create a straightforward resource for parents who want to promote effective digital safety practices in their school community. Inside, you’ll find a list of questions you can ask to better understand your district’s current digital safety plans and to open a dialogue about digital safety in your community.

What’s in your school’s digital safety plan?

Check out this new resource from National PTA and GoGuardian!

Why understand student online activity?

1. Safeguard student mental health and safety.

80% of K-12 parents believe that unrestricted access to the Internet can be harmful to student mental health.

More than 88% of K-12 parents support the use of online tools that help detect signs of students considering self-harm or violence. 

2. Protect children from harmful and explicit content.

71% of K-12 parents have concerns about their child accessing explicit or harmful content on a school-issued device.

92% of K-12 parents believe it’s necessary to have online educational technologies in place to prevent such access.

3. Keep students on task while accessing digital resources.

93% of K-12 parents believe the internet is a useful learning tool that schools should use to enhance learning.

90% of parents believe it is necessary to have online education technologies in place that keep students away from digital distractions.

Source: The statistics above were drawn from a recent blind survey by Morning Consult of a nationally representative group of nearly 2,500 K-12 parents, teachers, and administrators.

Meet Our Sponsor

GoGuardian has been a Proud National Sponsor of PTA since 2018 and is supporting the release of our updated National Standards for Family-School Partnerships—going live this month! GoGuardian and the National PTA are committed to student success. Together, they are working to engage families and educators on solutions to best support student mental health and online safety.

4 Back to School Tips for Parents

Practice healthy habits so we can be “stronger together” this back to school season!

Lysol and National PTA hope families everywhere enjoyed their summer vacation and the quality time that comes with it! This school year is the first time many students are back together at school following the COVID-19 pandemic. Children are stronger together in the classroom, so it’s important to follow the below healthy habits to help keep students at school, learning from teachers—and each other—this academic year:

  • Complete all health requirements: Schedule your annual checkups including medical, eye, and ear exams for your child, and ensure they are up to date with their immunizations. This will help ensure your child is ready for the school year.
  • Go to bed on time: We know bedtime can vary over the summer, but it’s important to get back on a regular sleep schedule to be energized and refreshed for the day. Students aged 6-12 should sleep 9-12 hours a night, while students aged 13-18 should aim for 8-10 hours a night. Sleeping the recommended length of time helps students stay focused and improves academic performance.1
  • Get the right supplies: Prepare your student for success by acquiring all school supplies early. Make a list to double check what you may already have at home and pick up everything your child needs to start the year. Each school year presents its own unique challenges, and the correct supplies can help your student be ready to tackle anything that comes their way.
  • Practice healthy habits: Lysol is proud to support healthy habits at home and in school through the Here for Healthy Schools initiative. Encourage teachers, administrators, and school leaders to utilize Lysol resources and downloadable activities on handwashing, germ transmission, and other valuable lessons available through the Healthy Habits Program. Practicing healthy habits can help curb the spread of illness-causing germs in classrooms and support a successful school year!

Healthy habits are important to instill in children so they can feel their best as they come together at school. This year, Lysol captured candid conversations from real students who shared who they really are and said what they really think on topics such as celebrating differences, what they missed about school, and more. Please visit Lysol.com/HERE to watch and learn more.

6 Essential Back-to-School Supplies

Your average school supply list contains the usual suspects: No. 2 pencils, glue sticks, plus folders in every color of the rainbow. But these are just a few of the tools that fuel success in the classroom. Teachers and students need other items you might not immediately think of—and that might be missing from your classroom supply lists. 

PTAs can help source school supplies in a number of ways. Whether you DIY or delegate to a third-party vendor, PTA leaders can work to ensure each classroom list is complete. Here are six items worth considering (and why!).

1. Hand sanitizer and hand soap – As we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic, healthy habits are a must. Students are encouraged to wash their hands several times throughout the day, especially before mealtimes. Hand soap is most useful for classrooms with their own sinks, while hand sanitizer can get the job done when soap and water aren’t readily available. Either way, students go through these items quickly—which is why it’s important to make sure they never run out.

2.  Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol® Disinfectant SprayDisinfecting wipes and sprays from Lysol are essential to help prevent the spread of illness-causing germs and tackle unexpected messes in the classroom. For peace of mind, many teachers disinfect high-touch classroom surfaces like desktops, doorknobs and light switches daily. Include these products on every class’s back-to-school supply list, and you’ll ensure a steady supply through cold-and-flu season and beyond.

3. Sandwich bags – Sandwich bags (ideally with zip-top closure) are super-handy for distributing individual portions of snacks, manipulatives or craft supplies. If students need to pause mid-way through an activity, they are perfect for storing loose pieces until the following day. Sandwich baggies are also useful for securing items that become broken or lost, such as a piece of jewelry or even a baby tooth that comes out during the school day! The list goes on, which is why every classroom should have a stock of sandwich bags (and reuse them as much as possible).

4. Pencil pouches – It’s all too easy for backpacks, desks and lockers to become littered with small school items. Students need an easy way to corral their writing implements, pencil sharpeners and such. Teachers tend to prefer pencil pouches to pencil boxes because they are more durable and less bulky—plus, they often sport loops to fit into three-ring binders.  

5. Earbuds – Technology has an ever-growing presence in the classroom, with many students using school-issued tablets or laptops. Earbuds are a great alternative to traditional headphones because they take up less room. When each student has their own pair of earbuds, they can easily make the switch to independent learning with their devices. Even if your school provides a pair of earbuds, it doesn’t hurt to buy extra, in case they become misplaced.

6. Academic planner – It’s never too early to help kids learn organization and time-management—and for young digital natives, a paper planner or personal organizer can be just the tool they need. Consider putting academic planners on the list for older students who can write proficiently, generally late elementary school and beyond. With an academic planner they can track homework assignments, upcoming tests and other important information (and relish the joy of crossing off those to-dos!). The ideal planner offers weekly and monthly views of their schedule, with the ability to customize school subjects. But many students enjoy the opportunity to pick the academic planner that works best for them.

A thoughtful school supply list captures everything teachers and students need to thrive in the classroom. Take a look at yours and see what items may need to be added—to ensure a fun, productive and healthy year for your entire school community.

Lysol is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA. This article contains sponsored content from third parties.National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service.

4 Ways Your PTA Can Simplify School Supplies

From crayons to calculators, students rely on a steady stream of school supplies to make it through the academic year. But securing these items can be a challenge for teachers and parents, especially when supply lists are long and they differ from grade to grade, even from classroom to classroom.

That’s where PTA leaders can step in to support teachers, facilitate student learning and make life easier for families. And no matter how your PTA chooses to get involved, this is also an opportunity to check that your classroom lists include all the essentials, including commonly overlooked items like Lysol® Disinfecting Wipes and Lysol® Disinfectant Spray. If your PTA is looking to help with school supplies, here are four models to consider.

1. Buy in Bulk

How It Works: With teacher supply lists in hand, your PTA can take on the lion’s share of the work by purchasing the necessary items in bulk, either in person or online. Once the supplies arrive, PTA members sort, assemble and distribute the school supply kits to every classroom.

How It’s Funded: In late spring or early summer, the PTA asks for contributions from each family (typically $20 to $45 per student, which is less than they would pay to buy the school supplies themselves). Parents can even make a tax-deductible donation to help cover supplies for those who are unable to pay. Any leftover money can be applied to the PTA general fund, and surplus supplies can be stored for the next school year.

Why PTAs Like It: Not only does this approach reduce much of the burden for teachers and parents, it also opens up short-term PTA volunteer opportunities for people who like to bargain-hunt or who only have a few hours to spare. Another bonus: Every student gets the same brand of markers, folders and so on—thereby leveling the playing field.

2. Work with a Wholesaler

How It Works: A growing number of companies will partner with schools to provide turnkey school supply kits, customized by grade. The PTA takes on the role of hiring and managing the third-party vendor, seeking teacher input and promoting the service to families. The completed kits are shipped to student homes—or, better yet, directly to the school so teachers can set everything up before the first day of class.

How It’s Funded: Parents order their supply kits online from the company (or opt out, if they prefer). Often, your PTA can receive a portion of the proceeds from each box sold.

Why PTAs Like It: “Parents love the ease of school supply shopping in just a few clicks. Long gone are the days of hitting up multiple stores to find specific items,” says Jennifer Finnegan, who manages the school supply program on behalf of Haycock Elementary PTA in Falls Church, Va. “The Haycock PTA is happy to provide this convenience, and it’s an easy win for the entire school community. ”

3. Funnel Funds to Teachers

How It Works: Classroom teachers know what they need to support their lessons plans, and they often have brand preferences, too. That’s why some PTAs choose to hold an annual classroom supply fundraising campaign. Then, teachers get to do all the shopping.

How It’s Funded: Families pay into a fund dedicated to school supplies. Some PTAs suggest a per-student contribution, while others follow a pay-what-you-can model. Either way, your PTA may choose to subsidize the fund as needed. The money then gets divided among classroom and specialty teachers, who purchase exactly what’s needed for their students for the entire year.

Why PTAs Like It: This approach gives teachers ultimate control over their classroom supplies, while again saving families time and ensuring equity among students. Meanwhile, kids still get to pick out their highly personal items like backpacks, lunch boxes and water bottles.

4. Close the Gaps

How It Works: Whether or not you pursue one of the options above, your PTA can further help teachers by setting up a grant program to reimburse them for any out-of-pocket expenses, up to a maximum amount (typically $100 to $250) per school year.

How It’s Funded: Your PTA may include this reimbursement program as a line item in your annual budget. Be sure to stipulate which kinds of purchases are eligible (defer to your PTA bylaws and guidelines) as well as the process for submitting receipts.

Why PTAs Like It: There is no question that too many teachers spend too much of their own money on snacks, crafts and other classroom supplies. PTAs can help teachers pay for qualified educational expenses when school budgets and supply lists don’t quite cover it.

Sourcing school supplies is just one more way your PTA can support teachers, parents and students—and help your entire community get off to a strong start each fall.

Here’s to another fantastic school year!

Lysol is a Proud National Sponsor of National PTA. This article contains sponsored content from third parties.National PTA does not endorse any commercial entity, product or service.

5 Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe From COVID at School

Children everywhere are heading back to school and in-person learning. It’s important to keep in mind that many communities continue to be affected by the COVID pandemic.

As of August 22, the risk that COVID poses—based on how many people are getting infected and need hospital care—is medium to high in more than 75% of communities nationwide.

Here are 5 ways to keep your child safe from COVID as they head back to school.

1. Get your child vaccinated as soon as possible

Vaccination is the best thing you can do to protect your child from the dangers of COVID.

Since vaccines became available, people of all ages—including children—who are up to date with their COVID vaccines have been less likely than unvaccinated people to get very sick from COVID.

Everyone 6 months or older should get vaccinated. Find COVID vaccines near you at vaccines.gov.

2. Keep your child home when they’re sick

If your child has COVID or COVID-like symptoms, they should stay home from school to reduce their chances of spreading the virus to others.

If your child tests positive for COVID, follow the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s guidance on when and how long to isolate.

3. Test to prevent spreading COVID to others

You should test your child for COVID immediately if they have symptoms.

If your child was exposed to someone with COVID and doesn’t have symptoms, wait at least 5 days to test them. You may get an incorrect result if you test them too soon after exposure.

If your child tests positive, that means they’re infected with COVID. They should isolate, and you should tell everyone they’ve recently had close contact with, to avoid spreading the virus to others.

4. Wear a mask

Regardless of whether your child is vaccinated, they should wear a mask around others at school when the risk that COVID poses to your community is high.

If your child has been exposed to COVID, they should wear a mask around others at school for 10 days following exposure.

Don’t send your child to school if they have COVID. But if they do go to school with COVID-like symptoms or develop symptoms while at school, they should wear a mask around others.

5. Encourage your child to wash their hands often

Handwashing removes germs from one’s hands. It helps prevent getting infections and spreading infectious diseases to others.  

Encourage your child to wash their hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Handwashing is especially important:

  • After you blow your nose, cough, or sneeze
  • Before and after you eat
  • After you use the restroom
  • After recess or playtime with others

If your child doesn’t have soap and water, they can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol. Children 5 and younger should only use hand sanitizer with adult supervision.

Maximizing In-Person Learning in the Era of COVID

We have the tools to keep students in the classroom and safe from COVID; we just have to use them—was one of the takeaways from a National PTA–hosted symposium on maximizing in-person learning days for students across the country.

The symposium, which took place during the National PTA 125th Anniversary Convention in June, featured a two-part panel discussion moderated by NBC News Correspondent Rehema Ellis on how our nation can plan a path forward from the COVID pandemic and how parents and caregivers can support student safety and well-being.

National PTA President Anna King kicked off the event, noting that, “it is vital to ensure the continuity of education for every child and to support children’s success socially and emotionally.”

The first panel included U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, M.D., MBA, and U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, Ed.D.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Murthy discussed how research and science can help inform parents’ and caregivers’ decision making around vaccinating children to protect them against COVID, as well as the mental health impacts of the pandemic on students and resources for parents on how to support their children.

As of July 28, 2022, over 140,000 children under 18 have been hospitalized and over 1,700 have died since the pandemic began.

“We should not tolerate those kinds of losses if we have a tool that can reduce hospitalizations and death,” said Surgeon General Murthy. “That tool is the vaccine.” He said that testing is another tool at our disposal that can help keep kids safe and keep them in class by detecting infections early on.  

U.S. Secretary of Education Dr. Cardona highlighted the resources made available through the American Rescue Plan to promote safe school operations and in-person learning. He also implored parents to help keep schools accountable with how they spend the money they received and how vital family engagement is at this time.  

“As the father of two teenagers, I know parenting can feel like you’re building the plane as you fly, and over these last two years with the pandemic, not only were you building the plane, you were flying it through a monsoon, but you did it,” said Secretary Cardona. “For the last two years, together we fought COVID, and for the next two years, together, let’s fight complacency.”

By complacency, Secretary Cardona was referring to the status quo in education prior to the pandemic, in which the education system “worked for some but not all.”

“Instead,” said Secretary Cardona, “let’s embrace this disruption in education to reimagine parental engagement. Let’s embrace intentional collaboration with our students’ best and more influential teachers: the parents.”

The second panel featured Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL) Board Chair Timothy Shriver, Ph.D.; American Academy of Pediatrics President-Elect Sandy Chung, M.D.; and National PTA Healthy Minds Ambassador Shaton Berry, MSW. They spoke about the need to protect children’s mental health in addition to their physical health.

“We all want our children to feel emotional safety so that they can feel physical safety,” said Dr. Shriver. “You don’t get to physical safety unless you have emotional safety.”

But, as Dr. Chung pointed out, our nation faces a shortage of the professionals we traditionally turn to for help: mental health providers. “We were always taught to refer to mental health providers, but there is a national shortage,” said Dr. Chung. “I was referring kids to someone, and they would have to wait six months to get an appointment.”

Dr. Chung encouraged parents and caregivers to reach out to their child’s pediatrician or other health care providers for help. “Whether or not your pediatrician may know exactly what to do will vary depending on their training and experience,” she said. “But if they don’t know what to do, they’ll know where to help you find care. The key here is just to remember you’re not in this alone.”      

“In this conversation about mental health,” said National PTA Healthy Minds Ambassador Berry, “we’re looking at it wrong. We’re looking at it from that the school is going to fix the community. And we have to think about how the community has to fix the school. If we’re not having conversations about mental health in our family, it’s never going to come into our school building.”

Berry had the following advice for parents: “As you’re having conversations with your babies every day, instead of saying, ‘What did you do today?’ Ask them, ‘How did you feel today?’ And change the narrative of how you’re talking about feelings and how you’re engaging with your child because that is a different conversation.”

The symposium was supported by Proud National PTA Sponsor Thermo Fisher Scientific and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ We Can Do This campaign.

Add ‘Get My Child Vaccinated Against COVID’ to Your Summer Plans

Great news: Our younger kids can now get vaccinated against COVID!

After a thorough review of the safety and effectiveness data from the clinical trials, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorized COVID vaccines for children ages 6 months through 4 years. That means that everyone as young as 6 months in the United States can now get the protection of a COVID vaccine.

Parents and guardians have been eagerly awaiting this news. Since the pandemic began, over 130,000 children under age 18 have been hospitalized and nearly 1,500 have died. This year, kids under 5 years old have been more likely than older kids to be hospitalized with COVID.

Also, as many as 1 in 4 children who get COVID experience long COVID, in which they have new or lingering symptoms that last for weeks or months after infection.

Many kids are also getting multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children, or MIS-C, a rare but serious illness caused by COVID that involves painful swelling in different parts of the body, including the heart, lungs, and brain. Over 8,500 children with COVID have also had MIS-C; 69 of those children have died.

There’s no way to predict how COVID will affect your child if they get it. They might be one of the lucky ones and just have the sniffles, but the risk for more severe illness is very real. Even perfectly healthy children can get very sick from COVID. One study found that almost half of children ages 0–17 who’ve been hospitalized with COVID had no other health issues. That proportion was even higher among children under 5, according to another study

Vaccination is the best thing you can do to protect your child from the dangers of COVID

Since vaccines became available, people in all age groups, including children, who are up to date with their COVID vaccines have been less likely to test positive, be hospitalized, and die from COVID than unvaccinated people. Vaccinated people are also less likely to get MIS or MIS-C and long COVID.

There are two different vaccines available for children. The number of doses your child needs depends on their age and which vaccine they get. See the table below for details.

If your child is male and age 12 or older, they may benefit from waiting longer between the 1st and 2nd vaccine doses. Talk to your health care or vaccine provider. 

Once your child is up to date with their COVID vaccines, you can send them to school and to play with others, confident that they have the best possible protection against COVID.

Where to find COVID vaccines for children

COVID vaccines for kids are available at pediatricians’ and other doctors’ offices, community health centers, rural health clinics, children’s hospitals, public health clinics, local pharmacies, and other community-based organizations.

To find free COVID vaccines for your child, talk to your child’s pediatrician or your family doctor. You can also find vaccines for children near you at vaccines.gov.