WEST PALM BEACH, Fla., August 14, 2011 — Americans agree that the economy is difficult right now. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, unemployment stands at 9.1 percent, or 13.9 million people. Banks continue to foreclose on homes, and families who retain their houses see their values plummet. Hunger in the United States is at record highs. Inflation, stagnation and recession loom in the distance.
In the midst of all this negative economic data and real-life economic stress, we can lose sight of the impact of these pressures on our children. The State of America’s Children, released by the Children’s Defense Fund last month, paints a sobering picture.
Very simply put, our children are in jeopardy. The hardest hit groups of children are America’s children of color, who are on the brink of crisis. In personal terms, the status of our children is heartbreaking.
As the study says, poverty impairs intellectual, emotional and physical development. It also ultimately costs America even more money in increased healthcare costs and lost productivity. Poverty raises the likelihood of children entering a state or federal system, whether it is foster care, juvenile detention, or prison. Equally importantly, it kills dreams, limits opportunities, and deprives our children of the life, liberty and happiness we all seek.
The 2011 State of America’s Children shows that the number of children who live in poverty in America is on the increase. Since 2000, the number of children living in poverty has increased by four million. The number of children who fell into poverty between 2008 and 2009 was the largest single-year increase ever recorded.
In 2009, one in every five children, or 15.5 million children, lived in poverty, 6.9 million of them in extreme poverty. More than 2/3 of poor children live in families where at least one parent works.
Homelessness, one of the most visible conditions of poverty, is also increasing with our children. The number of homeless pre-school aged children increased 43% in the last two years. The number of homeless children in public schools increased 41 percent between the 2006-7 and 2008-9 school years.
At the same time that need is increasing, public services are decreasing. In 2009, an average of 15.6 million children received food stamps monthly, a 65 percent increase over 10 years. However, states and the federal government are cutting programs. For example, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits in 2009 were less than half the 1970 real dollar amount in nearly 2/3 of the states.
Poverty impacts education. We all know hungry children have difficulty learning. Whether due to poverty or due to failings in educational structure, education is suffering. The 2011 study shows that a majority of children in all racial groups and 79 percent or more of black and Hispanic children in public schools cannot read or do math at grade level in the fourth, eighth or 12th grades.
There is also the unbelievable cost for child care. Parents often are forced not to work or to send their children to non-licensed caregivers or programs that lack enrichment because of the sheer cost. According to the Children’s Defense Fund, the annual cost of center-based child care for a 4-year-old is more than the annual in-state tuition at a public four-year college in 33 states and the District of Columbia.
Of course, statistics never tell the whole story. The real impact hits us when we see poor, hungry and homeless children. These are real people with daily tragedies, trudging through very difficult lives, with little hope for change.
The cost of the current economic turmoil is high. The cost on our children is devastating.
Read more by Lisa at Life with Lisa at The Washington Times Communities.
Lisa has an undergraduate degree in International Relations from George Mason University and a graduate degree in Foreign Affairs from The University of Virginia. She spent 11 years as an analyst with the federal government. She is part owner of a research and analysis company, C2 Research, LLC, which specializes in complex research and analysis. Lisa is also a freelance writer, contributing to Donne Tempo Magazine.
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