The last two years have been devastating for children during the pandemic, dealing with isolation along with losing loved ones. A conference held in Baltimore this week focused on bringing conversations around child bereavement closer to the communities it impacts.

The National Alliance for Children’s Grief hosted its Baltimore regional conference at Roberta’s House, a family grief support center.

Dr. Micki Burns, a licensed psychologist who focuses on childhood bereavement and chief clinical officer at Judi’s House, another support center, said there has been a large increase in overdose deaths and homicides from gun violence since 2020, on top of people losing families to COVID-19.

“These types of death losses are really concentrated in some of these urban areas or areas that have more families of color who are having to contend with the ongoing systemic racism, all of those other obstacles that our society has created for them,” Burns outlined.

One in 12 children in Maryland will experience the death of a parent or sibling by age 18, according to the Childhood Bereavement Estimation Model.

Dr. Tashel Bordere, human development and family science professor at the University of Missouri, who attended the conference, said funding to support services and training for people working with bereaved children is critical.

“Services that don’t just focus on the individual needs of children but involve the family, that involve the teachers,” Bordere suggested. “So that children are able to experience continuity of care, and they’re hearing similar language within their educational settings and within their homes.”

Next month, Roberta’s House will also host Camp Erin Baltimore, a grief camp for children ages six through 17 who have lost a loved one. The two-day camp during spring break includes counseling, education, and emotional support, along with camp activities such as games, and arts and crafts.

Emily Scott is a reporter and producer in Philadelphia. She previously worked at WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and is a 2018 graduate of Temple University and the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies.

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