Imagine every night when your children go to bed, sitting at the kitchen table crying, because of bills piling up. You have so many questions going through you head. How am I going to put food on the table? How will I be able to pay the bills this month? If I skip this bill what will happen? These are just a few questions that families who are faced with economic hardships ask themselves. Some families experience it for a brief period however a portion experience chronic poverty throughout their lifetime. In many cases the greatest challenge is the lack of financial resources, but whatever the case may be the stakes get higher when it come to the effects on children. How does poverty and poor healthcare affect children mentally, emotionally, and physically
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Poverty can be defined in various ways. Primarily poverty is broken down into four categories: Absolute and relative poverty, and, generational and situational poverty (NPC). The number of people living below a certain income level unable to afford basic goods and services are defined as absolute poverty while, relative poverty are people placed in poverty because they do not meet the standards. These people have the necessities of living a healthy lifestyle; however, they still nonetheless classified as living in poverty because they live below the federal poverty level. On the other hand, poverty can be generational or situational. Generational poverty is defined as being in poverty for two or more generations. Situational poverty is due to different circumstances such as death in family, loss of job and is usually for a shorter period.
So what does it mean to experience poverty? According to the national center for children in poverty, 37 million children are living in poverty in the United States. Todayâ€™s necessities has changed significantly from the past, having access to electricity, indoor plumbing, telephone service, a car, heating and air, and etc are essential to live in the world today. More than 10 million children are deprived of one or more of their rights, which include the right of nutrition, water, sanitation, access to basic health care, shelter, education, and protection (Aratani). 6 million children under six years old are homeless, never has received medical care and suffer from malnutrition. Children who live in poverty are 48 percent more likely so suffer from depression, domestic violence and substance abuse (Payne).
The causes of poverty are very broad. Generally, you cannot identify one problem as the cause of poverty for families. Some of the leading causes of poverty are imprisonment, divorce, natural disasters, substance abuse, overpopulation, lack of education, health, housing, geographic factors, economy, disease, and mental illness. There are many more causes of poverty and there will always be considering the constant changes in the world. Single parents are two to three times higher to be affected by poverty, about 40 percent of instanced parents contribute nothing to their children up keeping those who do are paying an average of 2,100 a year which everyone know that amount will not supply the child with everything they need(Payne). Economic stress can be a factor for breaking families up. The struggling economy has been the cause of the individuals who once had secure jobs, to now being among the poor.
2.6 million Jobs were lost alone this year. Job loss is at an all time high, losing more than 500,000 job a month (Caroline and Bernstwin). Death in the family along with job lose in these economic times are inevitable. The fact that many families cannot afford nor save enough money to be able to have life insurance. Which causes families to makes there life a waiting game, hoping that nothing happens since they canâ€™t afford life insurance. So ultimately when a death in the family occurs, the expenses along with the instant change in income makes a household fall apart; following the depression and lack of will power, many are in a fog on how to recover and rise there families to the standards they were accustom to. Families dealing with poverty worry about so many things, they try to continue to pay all there bills on time, stretch their money tying to camouflage the issue so their children will not know how bad it is (Meltzer). Nevertheless, poverty brought on by death changes everything, situations that are already hard to deal with when you combine that with being put on a fast track to poverty makes things more unbearable.
The government programs such as food stamps, free or reduced lunch, medicad, government checks are the safety net for children living in poverty. These programs help children cope with the changes by giving them a way where they can still maintain some normal see to their lives. School breakfasts and lunches are the only meals some children get and over a million children according to Joan Flores do not receive the adequate breakfast needed because the school does not offer the program (children advocate). Eighty percent of children in the United States qualify for either free or reduced lunch (Joliffe and Filiak), In Richmond County, NC seventy-five percent of the children in the county qualify for this program (Barbee, Personal interview). Government supplementary checks are a way for the parents to get the items needed for the child however supplementary payments usually only allow for eight to fourteen benefits payments leaving the family to fend for themselves when that time period runs out . Medicad and food stamps give children the opportunity to have the two vital things they need for their existence. Although food stamps help at need children, food stamps are not easy for some families to obtain. Obstacles such as language barriers, thirteen-page application, interview process, etc prevent eligible families from receiving the benefits (Meltzer). Along with these obstacles, countless others stand in the way of children benefiting from the system. In certain counties or certain states, if you are homeless or cannot provide an address you are automatically be denied for government assistance; not to mention if the government finds out you are homeless your children you are running a risk of them taking your children. In addition, some families that are receiving these benefits should not, where as some families cheat the system taking viable resources that could be life or death for a child in need. Even though these programs are intended to help these children and families at need, tying to obtain this help is not only stressful for the family but also the child or children involved (Burnett, Personal Interview).
Children in poverty are affected mentally, emotionally, and physically not to mention these children are prone to a shorter life span. Poverty affects children before they are even born, parents already in poverty do not receive the adequate prenatal care need for the child to develop properly. In addition, the child is at risk of being born prematurely and often they will suffer from birth defects and developmental delays (Meltzer). The stressful situations these children encounter on a daily bases can led the child to have low self-esteem and difficulties forming relationships with other even before they enter school. Not only are the children education impacted by poverty their choice of schooling is also impacted. Many underprivileged children are forced to attend under funded schools; statistics show that these children will ultimately drop out of high school and give birth during the teenage years. These children will often fall behind when entering school. A child who attends a under funded school or fall behind could be the start of the child not learning to read and write proficiently, they are also likely to continue to struggle as a high school student. Having poor grades in high school, his/her future for attending college is seriously limited. Since most careers are often tied to higher education. The lack of a high school or even a college degree sets the poor child up for a lifetime of struggle never making it out of the struggle they already know (Payne).
Emotionally these children are traumatized, even from birth the emotional problem are clear/ children that experience poverty are more likely to experience depression, posttraumatic stress disorders, they are also more likely to become a victim of the court system. Suicide rates are high among children living in poverty. Approximately, thirty thousand children living in poverty take there lives each year. Although traumatic for all children, the NPC conducted a research showing how children react to poverty. When some children grow up in it they learn to slowly over come the situation they are in and turn out better, while other are constantly in a downward spiral . If you look out into your community, you would see numerous cases of emotional behavior based on poverty (Joliffe and Filiak). Ruby Payne identified the behavior related to children in poverty which included: physically fighting, easily angered, unaffected when being disciplined, cheating, stealing, argue loudly (Payne). Emotionally attachment and a sense of security are hard to achieve thus making the child hierarchy of need for children incomplete, leaving one of more of the following out: esteem, belonging, physiological, safety, or self-actualization (Ettinger, R.H P.437.) .
Countless children in poverty go on day in and day out hungry not having the proper nutrition to function nor keep a healthy body. Five million children are deprived of appropriate nutrition and housing conditions of those five million, One point five million children under the age of five suffer from health in food deprivations which stunt there bodies from growing properly (Nicely). Low birth weights and increased risks of infant mortality are high even before the child is born. Poverty affects every organ and every aspect of a child existence. The American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that people living in extreme poverty tend to have more chronic illnesses, more frequent and severe diseases and more complications also. Obesity, heart disease and asthma are also big in children living in poverty; these illnesses can continue to affect them later in adulthood. Along with the items listed above there are countless other health issues these children suffer at the hands of poverty.
Think about your children would you want them to experience these things because of poverty. How can we end this epidemic that takes over numerous lives. Today’s children that are in poverty are all too often tomorrow’s parent raising a child in poverty. Poverty is often generational passing from one generation to the next generation affecting the long-term health, wellbeing and productivity of families, which affects the society as a whole. Therefore, I challenge you, as well as myself, to extend a helping hand to help the ones who cannot help themselves and break the revolving door of poverty.