COVID — 19: Forcing Parents to Make Impossible Choices

Laurie Strongin
3 min readMar 25, 2020


By Laurie Strongin, CEO, Hope for Henry Foundation

Each year more than 3 million children are hospitalized in the United States. If your child is diagnosed — or suspected of having — COVID19, only one parent can stay in the hospital. Who would you choose, you or your spouse? What if you are a single parent with other children at home? What if your wife is seven months pregnant and your child was just diagnosed with cancer? Which one of you would go to the hospital and risk exposure to COVID-19?

Parents at children's hospitals across the country are confronting these devastating choices.

The significant, rapidly evolving threat of COVID-19 is placing ever more strain on the already stressed environment that is a children’s hospital. To minimize the risk of exposure to the highly contagious virus, these institutions are taking necessary but psychologically detrimental precautions, including:

· Limiting children’s visitors to one healthy parent or legal guardian, meaning no siblings or any children under 18 are able to visit;

· Closing playrooms to limit patient-to-patient contact;

· Terminating volunteer programs, meaning that kids without guardians are left alone; and

· Discontinuing “nonessential” programming like art, music, and pet therapy.

True, these changes are critical to ensuring that the patients are protected against this insidious virus.

But these hospitalized kids are now left to endure an experience and environment that will leave lasting scars on their psyches. For children, in particular, the uncertainties accompanying serious illnesses and the medical protocols required to treat them are discouraging and painful. The outsized equipment that towers above them is intimidating. And the constant beeping of pumps and sounding of alarms makes rest and sleep close to impossible.

This is exactly why Hope for Henry exists. We have adjusted our program to respond to these uncertain times.

· We are donating meals to medical staff on the frontlines who care for kids and families around the clock.

· We are delivering nutritional snacks and meals for parents who are unable to leave their child’s hospital room and are separated from family and friends during an extremely challenging time.

· Our innovative patient incentive program — Super Path to Super Duper Better — helps patients take their medicines and do the hard things they need to do to get better.

· Our Room of Your Own program, in partnership with Dormify, is easing the difficult transition from home to hospital.

· Hospitalized kids are celebrating their birthdays.

· Hope for Henry Super Fun Packs — filled with special gifts for kids of all ages — are bringing smiles to the faces of isolated kids.

While children’s hospitals work tirelessly to acquire the medical supplies they need to provide superlative care throughout this medical crisis, nonprofit organizations like Hope for Henry are at the ready, providing critical services that help ensure that the children and families we all care so much about leave the hospitals healthy and whole and ready to resume the lives they left at the moment of diagnosis.

Because it takes more than medicine to help kids and families heal.



Laurie Strongin

Laurie is founder & CEO of Washington, DC-based Hope for Henry Foundation, which is reinventing the pediatric patient experience in hospitals around the country