TDOE Releases Child Wellbeing Task Force Initial COVID-19 Impact Report

Thursday, July 23, 2020
Thursday, the Tennessee Department of Education released the Initial COVID-19 Impact Report, which provides context and data on the impact extended school closure has had on the wellbeing of students and the current effect the global pandemic has had on children and families. 
 
The Initial COVID-19 Impact Report contains valuable data around the effects of the coronavirus had on children's physical, mental and emotional health when schools closed in the spring and also the impact it continues to have.
The Initial COVID-19 Impact Report can be found here, along with a companion summary here
 
In response to the pandemic’s long-term effects on Tennessee’s school districts and students, Governor Bill Lee charged Commissioner Schwinn with convening the 38-member COVID-19 Child Wellbeing Task Force.  The goal of the Task Force is to ensure that the needs of Tennessee children are met during and after extended periods away from school, and to empower local communities to meaningfully engage in ways that support child wellbeing. 
 
"COVID-19 has had a massive impact on all aspects of our lives, particularly the education of students. Many of the real challenges we faced pre-pandemic have only been exacerbated in the past few months, and they a require a thoughtful, long-term strategy," said Governor Lee. "The findings in this report will help inform the Child Wellbeing Task Force's efforts to best support Tennessee's students, families, and educators in the months ahead." 
 
While the extent of the pandemic is not yet known, the Initial COVID-19 Impact Report key findings highlight trends that have been uncovered, including: 
 
Economic, physical and mental health are inter-connected and during times of crisis, may contribute to childhood adversity. Childhood adversity can have long term chronic physical and mental health related impacts, such as depression, suicide attempts, substance abuse and lung disease. 
 
Experienced family stress, such as unemployment, may contribute to increased rates of domestic violence, substance abuse and child abuse as was evident during previous national disasters and crises. 
 
Nationally, the pandemic has impacted populations disproportionately, raising concern of a widening equity gap. 
 
In Tennessee, during peak stay-at-home orders, reports of suspected child abuse dropped by 27 percent, in large part due to mandatory reporters, such as teachers and pediatricians, being disconnected from children and families. 
 
76 percent of Tennessee district leaders and 55 percent of public responders identified technology and hardware as a top COVID-19 related need. 
 
“Schools play a critical role in supporting students’ physical and mental health, and we have seen more students have gone hungry, suicide rates have increased, abuse cases have gone unreported and critical health and counseling services have halted due to the global pandemic,” said Commissioner Penny Schwinn. “The work of the Child Wellbeing Task Force, in partnership with state and local leaders, is essential to ensuring the academic and non-academic needs of our kids are met as we continue to fight this virus together.” 
 
The Initial COVID-19 Impact Report was developed by the Child Wellbeing Task Force, in collaboration with Tennessee Governor Bill Lee, Tennessee agencies and national experts.  The report was written utilizing available data at the time and will be updated as new data becomes available. National and Tennessee specific data are provided in the report to provide deeper contextual understanding.   
 
The Task Force will convene monthly meetings August through December and is operating with the following concrete objectives: 
 
Empowering Local Implementation: Identify local infrastructure, relationships and resources to promote supports for students and families. 
 
Supporting Rapid Response for late summer and back-to-school 2020: Develop a set of action items that local communities may utilize over the summer and throughout the traditional back-to-school season to support the needs of children. 
 
Determining Ongoing Support for Academic Year 2020-2021: Develop a set of action items that local communities may utilize to support the needs of children when school resumes in the fall of 2020. 
 
For additional COVID- related resources, guidance and information, visit the COVID-19 Resources webpage.

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