Pandemic Remains a Source of Disruption and Stress, Particularly for Families of Children With Special Health Care Needs

Photo of a kindergarten teacher sitting with students in a circle on the floor. They are all wearing masks. The teacher is holding a tablet and a boy is looking at it while clapping his hands.

New data on family experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic in California suggest that children with special health care needs (CSHCN) continue to face significant COVID-19-related challenges nearly three years into the pandemic. As students return to in-person classes, the rollback of public health orders has heightened safety concerns among caregivers, and many still fear their children are being left behind academically.

Despite suggestions that life has returned to “normal,” in June one-third of parents and caregivers statewide (33%) reported feelings of nervousness or stress always or most of the time in the previous month—up from 29% in July 2021. Nearly half (45%) said their household finances were negatively impacted since the start of the pandemic, up from less than one-third (32%) a year earlier. And more than half (58%) said they were worried for the safety of their children since public health measures, like masking mandates, relaxed. Rates of concern were even higher in households with CSHCN.

Among households with CSHCN, parents and caregivers were worried about their children’s mental health, even as they said their children were more likely to receive care. In June, 54% of CSHCN caregivers said they were moderately or extremely concerned about the mental health of their oldest child in the previous month, down from 62% the previous July, but considerably higher than the estimate for caregivers in households without CSHCN (28%).

Every effort should be made to ensure that all families have the support they need to recover fully from the COVID-19 pandemic and meet their physical, emotional, educational, and material needs consistently. Read more about policy and program options to mitigate the effects of the pandemic and promote child and family health and well-being.

Funding for’s new information on family experiences during the COVID-19 pandemic is provided by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health.


To learn about these new data, join us for “How Families of Children With Special Health Care Needs Are Coping in the ‘New Normal’,” a webinar hosted by PRB and sponsored by the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health, on Tuesday, Nov. 15, from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. PT.

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