In real numbers that means 263,000 children in Kentucky and 342,000 children in Indiana are impoverished meaning that if they live in a household with two kids and two adults, the annual income is $22,113. If you are reading this, pause for a minute and think about trying to support a family of four on $425.25 a week.
For many such children, poverty will have a profoundly adverse impact on their educational attainment, health, well-being and their status as adults. For child, it’s a terrible disadvantage.
“It touches every aspect of someone’s life and they have no control over it,” said Adrienne Bush, interim director of Hazard-Perry County Community Ministries, which operates the Hazard child care center.
Poor children are likely to have more learning and developmental delays. They may have more health problems, including dental decay that can cause pain and infection. They are more likely to move frequently, disrupting school and neighborhood connections. Many become homeless.
And it’s not limited to Appalachia or rural Kentucky.
St. Vincent de Paul in Louisville, a private social service center, for the fourth year is offering a summer enrichment program for poor children. Teachers have discovered the children, ages 6-12, need educational help but just as importantly, help developing missing social skills and ways to cope with unusual levels of stress and anxiety.
“They are more fearful,” said spokeswoman Linda Romine. “They worry— they worry about everything.”
In her Perry County region, the problems are particularly serious, Ms. Bush said. About 30 percent of families are below the poverty line and about half the 100 children who attend the preschool are low-income. This brings a host of obstacles.
Those who work with poor families acknowledge the difficulties of changing those circumstances particularly in the current economic climate and in families where one generation after another is poor.
“It is an overwhelming dilemma, an issue across the state,” said Ann Perkins, who runs Safe Harbor, a domestic violence shelter in Ashland. “The generational poverty is such a hard nut to crack.”
Still, Ms. Perkins and others like her keep trying. Now more than ever, officials and the community need to join the effort to find solutions and reduce the scourge of poverty that limits the future for an increasing number of children.