As I read the fact sheet about children living in poverty published in January 2017 by the National Center foe Children in Poverty, I find it astounding that 23 million children in the United States are living in poverty. The article looks at children under 6 living in families that are above low income and at or below low income threshold as of 2015. To be above low income a child will live in a family who makes 200% or more above the Federal Poverty Threshold or FPT. Children who are under 200% of the threshold are considered low income. 45% of children under 6 years of age are living in low income families.
The threshold is based on the number of people living in the home. For example: The household includes one mother with two children the household size is 3. The same would be true if there were two parents and one child. The threshold income of a household of 3 is $20, 090. You can find more information on the FPT at the United States Health and Human Services website.
The fact sheet goes on to separate children into two different categories “Poor”and “Near Poor.””Poor is defined as 100 % below the FPT, while near poor is 100-199% When the statistics are broken down into these categories, there are 23% percent of children under 6 who are poor and another 23% that are near poor.
The children living in low income families has changed very little between 2009 and 2015. Between 2009 and 2015 there are 7% less children under 6 living in low income households For families that live at or below the FPT, there are 7% less children in 2015, than in 2009. This looks like the numbers are going when you break it down into categories, but in all reality the change went from 46% low income families in 2009 to 45% in 2015. A measly 1 % change has occurred over 6 years.
What lead me to look at these statistics? The topic of Toxic Stress. I have worked in programs that provide child care and preschool for children who are living in low-income households. Persistent poverty, family stress and life circumstances are influencing these children. They live in areas where there are gangs, theft, home invasions, and shootings. They may live with parents who have mental health issues, experience neglect, domestic violence or substance abuse. These factors create toxic stress and impact the developing brain of the child. The result is lifelong problems in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.
What are we doing to support the children living in these situation? How can we support the child while we have them in our care? How can we support the families?