Homelessness, Poverty, Prison, and the State of America’s Children
Poverty and lack of resources for children in low income areas is a long standing issue in America, and one that Urban Gateways artists witness firsthand every day in many of our schools. As an education organization, we clearly believe that knowledge is key to progress – so we’re using today’s blog entry to introduce you to the facts.
The Children’s Defense Fund released its State of America’s Children Report this year, detailing how America has tackled the “War on Poverty” since the plan was first implemented by President Lyndon B. Johnson fifty years ago, and how national changes have affected poverty rates for children in particular. Several programs such as The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and the Earned Income Credit have since been created, and made a significant impact on poverty in America. However, the information presented by the CDF shows us that poverty, hunger, and homelessness among American children still remain distressingly high. A few details:
—In 2012 child poverty was only 5 percent lower than in 1964.
—One in 5 children —16.1 million— was poor in 2012.
—More than 1 in 9 children lacked access to adequate food in 2012, a rate 23 percent higher than before the recession.
—1.2 million public school students were homeless in 2011-2012, 73 percent more than before the recession.
—89 percent of children who relied on free or reduced lunch during their school year did not receive meals through the summer food service program in 2012.
–In no state could an individual working full-time at the minimum wage afford the fair market rent for a two-bedroom rental unit and have enough for food, utilities, and other necessities in 2013.
Among those standing up to address this lack of progress is Marian Wright Edelman, a lifelong activist of children’s rights and president of the Children’s Defense Fund. She explains that in a country with one of the richest economies, there should be no child hunger, and no one should lack basic resources. One of her main points is the high amount of investments funneled into the military, versus the low amount of concern for programs that can help America’s youth.
It is also startling to realize that while funding for prisons is monumental in this country, we continue to lack the programs that keep youth away from prisons. The report states that prison sentences result from a lack of focus on education, food, mentors, and mental health training for children. This encourages a “Cradle to Prison Pipeline”. Edelman explains,
“We know if we properly support children in their early years of rapid brain development, not only will they benefit, but so will all of America.”
(It was the lack of youth programs within the Chicago community that motivated the founders of Urban Gateways to help students receive access to arts education. They believed that more exposure to the arts would keep students both informed and engaged, support their development, and ultimately assist the surrounding communities as well.)
Edelman of course is right. For the government, an investment in military protects the land, culture, and values that so many Americans work hard for. The same should be said and done for America’s children. Edelman says, “In five years children of color who are disproportionally poor [nearly 1 in 3] will be a majority of all children in America, and of our future workplace, military, and consumers.”
Supporting quality of life for our young children increases their chances to become valued and active citizens who can have the opportunity to achieve their dreams, and contribute their skills to society. If youth can be given this chance, this nation will have made a far better investment that will keep America thriving for many years to come.