Child poverty rates highest in decade

He's sitting there quietly, keeping to himself. He goes to school and looks like any typical child. Nobody would know it, but he's living in poverty.

According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, a division of Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, more kids are living in poverty than ever before. In fact, the rate has risen 20 percent since 2000. In the Midwest, 38 percent of all children live in low-income families. That's 6.1 million kids.

The current poverty rate for a family of four in the United States is $22,050. Most families need about twice this to meet their daily needs, according to a recent study from the National Center for Children in Poverty. Families below this level are considered low-income.

The Roy C. Buley Community Center in Muncie serves local children, adults and seniors through educational and recreational activities.

Maude Jennings, a retired Ball State professor, volunteers there and sees child poverty first hand.

"It's not expressed openly and nobody says anything about it," she said. "There's a pride there."

She said child poverty is most evident in areas people normally wouldn't think of. When children come home from school, they often first turn to the refrigerator for a snack. However, when funds are low, the snack usually isn't there.

"We provide food for kids no matter who's able to pay," she said.
Child development professor Kresha Warnock said living in poverty has a real effect on kids. They have less access to good health care and nutritious food. Parents are often under high stress and work long hours. Many are subject to depression.

"One might not think about it, but access to quality child care is limited both across the country and in Delaware County," she said.

Petra Gonzales works for Head Start of Delaware County, which serves 257 impoverished children from the community. They provide free preschool and teach kindergarten readiness skills. Before entering school they make sure each child's medical screenings and follow-ups are up to date. They also have a disabilities coordinator.

"We have more parents asking about food pantries, clothing banks and assistance with utilities," she said. "They have basic needs like just
getting their kids to school."

Because all of the children at Head Start come from impoverished families, Gonzales said it's hard to see a difference. Yet, she said there is a large increase in demand for their services. However, she's not sure if this is because of their new recruitment strategy or because the general need is higher.

"In the past, we would have around 100 people on our waiting lists," she said. "Now we have over 300."

Warnock said solutions to child poverty don't come easily.

According to, the official Web site tracking money spent as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, Head Start received $124,281 as part of the stimulus package.

Gonzales said they want to use the money primarily to expand early head start programs. These programs would work with pregnant women and children until they are four years old. They would then work to transition the children into public schools.

They also want to use some of the funds to send their teachers back to school. However, these uses still need to be approved.

Warnock said she thinks the government needs to become more involved to help impoverished children.

"The government needs to provide quality health care to children," she said. "It's important to healthy development."

However, Jennings said each case is different and requires a different solution.

"There's nothing typical about poverty," she said.

How to help out
Where: Buley Community Center
1111 North Penn Street
Who: Mary Dolison, interim director
Web site coming soon
What to fill out: application, background check


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