Providing a voice to the voiceless is a central tenet of journalism. Yet, covering traumatic events in a factual and compassionate way can be a challenge, especially when families are so vulnerable. We have compiled some resources to help journalists navigate these obstacles.
Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma offers an array of materials on trauma topics, resources, training and fellowship opportunities.
Journalism Center for Children & Families offers tips on how to interview bereaved families, legal and ethical need-to-knows and case studies.
National Eating Disorders shares tips for responsible media coverage for those who have an eating disorder.
No Notoriety provides media guidance pertaining to mass shootings.
Reporting on Mass Shootings offers recommendations, examples and tips on how to cover mass shootings.
Reporting on Suicide provides recommendations, tips and guidance on how to cover suicide deaths.
Victims & Dealing with the Past offers essential tips and guidelines for journalists.
Child death and its implications are a significant, but invisible public health problem. Despite the high prevalence, with some estimates reaching 20 million American parents, this issue is not included in the nation’s discourse on family health, stability and wellbeing. Note: Twenty million parents does not include estimates for siblings. These numbers are not yet available.
Sibling loss, at any age, is poorly understood. In a recent population-based study, “sibling death in childhood was associated with a 71 percent increased all-cause mortality risk among bereaved persons.” Evidence in adolescent bereavement states “the effects of bereavement are severe, and unresolved bereavement has been linked to agitated depression, chronic illness, enduring and intense clinical reactions, such as guilt, and significant disturbances in self-esteem, job and school performance, and interpersonal relationships.” But despite this evidence, sibling death is not considered a risk factor in the Adverse Child Experiences risk assessment.
Like many public health concerns, there is an unequal toll and burden on our nation’s black and Hispanic families. According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mortality rates, black populations experience higher child death incidence rates for every age bracket (stillbirth to age 54) when compared to whites, as do American Indian and Alaskan Native populations from ages 15 to 54. Throughout their lives, black Americans lose more family members than white Americans. By age 60, black parents are twice as likely as white parents to have lost a child. And by age 70, they are about three and a half times more likely to have a child die.
Parents are likely to suffer from depressive symptoms, poorer well-being, less purpose in life, more health problems and marital or relationship disruption. Mothers, in particular, face an increased risk of psychiatric hospitalization in the first five years following the death. Mothers also experience increased premature mortality from both unnatural and natural causes, while fathers experience increased mortality from unnatural causes (i.e., suicide and accidents).
The long-term economic ramifications of losing a child, from increased medical expenditures, loss of wages or employment, loss of productivity (e.g., presenteeism and absenteeism), and reduced future income, are just beginning to be investigated.Common public policy protections, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act, do not consider child loss as a qualifying event for job protection, and 63 percent of employers allow only three days of paid leave.
Sample Family Stories
What’s Your HR Benefit? Deana’s Was One Week Leave Per Child
There are times in which an entire life can change in a moment. It may come in the form of an anxiously anticipated milestone: graduation, marriage, or the birth of a child. But there are darker, unimaginable tragedies we often refuse to consider - tucking them into the deepest recesses of our minds because they are too painful, too life-altering. For Deana Martin that moment came on a busy Friday afternoon.
Going through routine updates during her weekly supervising meeting, Deana’s phone began to ring. It rang again, and again, and again, incessantly. Continuing to devote her attention to work, Deana reviewed department finances, all the while noticing an unknown number with her hometown Indiana area code. Given the relentless nature of the caller, Deana acquiesced and picked up the phone. Read more in the HuffPost.
Is Your Child Safe? Betsy Wants To Know
Serving her country was the first thing Betsy Cummings would do following graduation. Leaving her small hometown of Culpeper, Virginia, she was off to see the world, meet her future husband, and eventually welcome her young son, Dylan, into the world.
Following maternity leave, Betsy did what millions of American working families do each day: she relinquished her only child, seven-week old Dylan, to a local childcare center in Norfolk, Virginia, entrusting them with his life. But what happened next was a tragedy no parent should experience.
What Betsy did not know then, and what American families do not know now, is that federal child safety protection laws are not equally enforced by all states. Certain childcare providers are exempt from commonsense requirements such as background checks, fingerprint analysis, and formal childcare training. In Betsy’s home state of Virginia, for example, 14 types of organizations are exempt from federal child safety protections including religious institutions, karate training centers, local parks and recreation facilities. In these states, families are left with no criminal recourse when their child is injured or dies while under the supervision of an exempt childcare provider. Read more in the HuffPost.
Nearly three years ago the nation’s attention was gripped by the shooting death of Michael Brown, a young black man who was shot by Darren Wilson, a white police officer. As unrest unfolded in Ferguson, larger questions about racial inequities and institutional racism began making headlines. Today, police shootings continue to be scrutinized, but racial bias and the inequities that plague families do not capture America’s attention.
Going largely unnoticed, except for sensational headlines decrying Chicago’s latest homicide count, are the thousands of families who live in communities where it is conceivable that their black son may walk out the door in the morning and never return. Although homicide is the leading cause of death among black men ages 15-35, many families feel invisible and left behind. This reality is true in a portion of Washington D.C. known as Anacostia, less than ten miles from The White House. Read more in the HuffPost.
Countless experiences shape the trajectory of a human life, but for Maryam Henderson-Uloho the convergence of two specific and devastating events ultimately changed her course: a 25-year prison sentence and the death of her son, Augustine.
Maryam was serving her sentence at St. Gabriel’s Louisiana Correctional Institution for Women when she received the news that her oldest son had died in a motorcycle accident. There were no social or mental support systems available Maryam. In addition to the absence of professional assistance, she could not even take refuge in the support of her prison community. A gesture as simple as a hug from another inmate could result in a minimum 90-day stay in solitary confinement, known as “The Hole.” Read more in the HuffPost.
Matt and Roya Pilcher were among the millions of Americans who slogged dutifully through the process of filing their taxes in 2011. But that year they joined countless other bereaved parents in experiencing pain far beyond the inconvenience of paperwork. Not only had they lost their daughter Ava; the IRS subsequently informed them their claim had been denied because someone else had already claimed Ava - and the accompanying dependent tax credit - as their own. Now the Pilchers were burdened with proving to the IRS that their dead daughter was, in fact, their dead child.
“All we really have is her memory and her name. For someone to try to steal that, to appropriate that for themselves – it’s beyond reprehensible,” says Matt Pilcher. Read more in the HuffPost.
“She wanted to be with her daughter.” This phrase was repeated often in the days following the death of Debbie Reynolds, who passed just one day after her daughter, Carrie Fisher. While the prominence of these two individuals grabbed the nation’s attention, their story resonated because it spoke to our society’s unconditional love and investment in our children. Dying to be “with” your child is a decision every parent can both understand and fear.
Weeks following Debbie Reynolds death, I again heard the phrase, “she wanted to be with her daughter.” As President Donald Trump was being inaugurated, I sat in the pews of a very different gathering just one hour north of our nation’s capital. This story, unlike the death of Debbie Reynolds, would not garner any media attention. It would instead go unnoticed - as do millions of other equally powerful American stories - hiding in plain sight. Read more in the HuffPost.
Among the men who have led our nation since its inception, there is a strong bond. And for more than half of our First Families, there is another, silent connection. This thread is woven not only through the families of our commanders in chief; it unites parents of of newborns with those of seasoned war veterans, Chicago’s homicides to our fallen policemen in Dallas, devout Christians to observant Jews to pious Muslims: it is the unequivocal, life-changing loss of a child.
According to Doug Wead, a historian and author of All the Presidents’ Children: Triumph and Tragedy in the Lives of America’s First Families, twenty-six children of presidents died before the age of five, and many more before the age of 30. Read more in the HuffPost.