Children should have access to resources that enable them to flourish.
As of 2019, 14.4% of all children under the age of 18 in the United States were living below the poverty line. Most of America’s economic systems were not designed to support every family. The cost of raising a child is, on average, $200,000. For families living in poverty providing fundamental resources including food, shelter, and housing can be taxing.
Food assistance programs are quintessential to ensuring families have access to nutritious meals. Programs such as SNAP and the Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) have been tied to positive increases with health gains and long-term health and educational outcomes. The National School Lunch and Breakfast program feeds up to 30 million students daily, provided at no cost the recipient. and provide nutritious meals to all students.
In 2018, nearly 1.6 million children under the age of 6 were without a home. Children who do not have a home are often susceptible to many diseases and injuries, but they do not have the ability to receive the care they need. The Section 8 housing voucher program was designed to help low-income families with renting, leasing, and purchasing houses. Unfortunately, the program has a year-long waiting list.
Childhood poverty can be exacerbated by the loss of income from the primary caregiver. Many programs that are intended to assist families with lost wages are challenged by long application processes and state variations. The situation is further complicated by workers being denied assistance if they have not worked enough hours or have not received enough earnings in order to qualify for unemployment benefits.
We must advocate for more flexible social programs. Racism and inequality must be stripped from all available resources and these programs must be implemented to reduce the burden on impoverished families.
Erin Leonard is a writer in the North Carolina Community Action Association’s Communications Fellows Program. NCCAA Communications Fellows are students or recent graduates pursuing a career in communications, graphic design, IT, public policy or a related field. They receive a stipend for their participation in the program. For more information on the NCCAA Communications Fellows Program, please contact Yvette Ruffin, director of the NCCAA Communications Fellows Program.