Most Americans are insulted from the poor; it is hard to imagine the challenges of poverty, the daily fears of victimization, the frustration of not being able to provide for a child. Poverty is something that not only effects adults, but children as well. When we think of poverty in America what is the image that comes to mind? An old dilapidated shack in southern Alabama? or a rat infested tenement house in New York City? According to the book Faces of Poverty, the author, Jill Berrick says that “Both images are correct, for poverty exists in the backwoods of Appalachia as well as in the heart of the inner city” (1). In homes across America poor parents are raising poor children. Even in our own back yard we are faced with poverty. “In Palm Beach County, more than 50 percent of single parents who have children under the age of 5 are living in poverty” (Hammersley). In the book Homeless Families In America, Jonathan Kozol focuses on four important issues of poor children under six: Who they are, where they live, why they are poor, and the risks poor children face. The information presented pertains to children who live in houses and apartments because this is the population founded by household surveys. “According to three national studies homeless children aged 16 and under, somewhere 41,000 and 106,000 children are literally homeless at any given time” (36). Homeless meaning they live in shelters, churches, or public places with no permanent residence. “Between 39,000- 296,000 are precariously housed, meaning they live with either relatives or doubled up with friends” (38). Why are poor families with young children poor? It is believed that children are poor because their parents are poor. Child poverty can only be reduced by attacking the multiple causes of family poverty. “Children under the age of six with single mothers are much more likely to be poor than those living with two parents” (Kozol 52). Part of this problem is due to the proportion of women giving birth outside marriage has increased dramatically over the past three decades, and children born outside of marriage who grow up with single mothers are likely to be poor for most of their childhood. Research shows “61 percent of children who spend the first 10 years of life in a single-parent family were poor for the most of the period, and only 7 percent avoided poverty altogether” (Hammersley). The last issue that Kozol focuses on are the risks poor children face on a daily basis. “Early childhood experiences contribute to poor children’s high rates of school failure, dropout, delinquency, early childbearing, and adult poverty” (Kozol 74). The level of developmental risk that poor children experience varies enormously and it is influenced in important ways by the depth and duration of family poverty. However, even among the long term poor, risks to child development vary according to the physical and mental health of parents, the availability of social support from outside the family, the place of residence, the resilience of children, and other circumstances. “Poor children are more likely than non-poor children to be low achievers in school, to repeat one or two grades, and to eventually drop out of school. They are more likely to engage in criminal behavior, to become unmarried teen- parents, and to be welfare dependant and are less likely to earn less if they are employed” (Kozol 86). There are reported incidences of child abuse and neglect , as well as the severity of the maltreatment reported, is much greater for children from low income families than for others. “The estimated incidences of maltreatment of all types was about seven times as great among children living in families with annual income below $15,000 as among those from higher income families” (Hammersley). The dynamics of child maltreatment would suggest that we should find higher rates of maltreatment in poor families as a result of the many risks associated with living in poverty. Poverty is a growing problem every day. The chances of stopping it are few. It is effecting not only the adults, but most unfortunately the children. It seems like the wealthy stay wealthy and, all but the few, poor stay poor. Why do innocent children have to live so miserably? Why do the children have to live in danger? These questions cannot be answered in this paper. These questions may never be answered.
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