On the heels of the Census Bureau revelation that nearly half of all Americans are living in poverty or low incomes, comes a new report, America’s Youngest Outcasts 2010. No, it’s not a made for TV reality show—it is reality for 1.6 million American children (1 in 45). In the finger-pointing game of yesteryear, your typical social conservatives would link the plight of a child to the irresponsible behavior of the parent. Yup, you’ve heard ‘em all…the unwed teenage mother syndrome, propagation for [welfare benefits] profit, drug addicted parents, and the like. But the National Center on Family Homelessness sets the record straight on this one.
“Financial speculation sparks collapse of the housing market and financial institutions, a stock market crash, and the Great Recession. The numbers of homeless children increased by more than 448,000 from 2007 to 2010; 1.6 million (one in 45 children) are homeless in 2010—that is a 38% spike from 2007.” < http://www.familyhomelessness.org/ >
To satiate the greed of the few—1.6 million children—more than 30,000 children each week—more than 4,400 each day are being sacrificed. Homeless, hungry and malnourished, declining physical health, emotional trauma, a lost sense of security and unstable educational opportunities follow these children where ever they go. As the National Center on Family Homelessness concludes “[p]lanning and policy activities to support the growth and development of these vulnerable children remain limited. Sixteen states have done no planning related to child homelessness, and only seven states have extensive plans.” Let’s add hopelessness to that list. Living on the edge, the nation’s most vulnerable are cheated of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness long before reaching voting age!
In 1996 the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act passed. The Act was hailed as breakthrough legislation on welfare reform. While signing the bill into law, Clinton declared that the act "gives us a chance we haven't had before to break the cycle of dependency … It gives structure, meaning and dignity to most of our lives." It is time to enforce the same reform on the twenty-first century Welfare Queen, the nation’s financial sector. It’s time to demand that the Queen support the nation’s future, its children, in ways that “give structure, meaning and dignity” to their young lives.
Kay Strong, Ph.D., Southern Illinois University, M.T., University of Houston, M.A., Ohio University; Associate Professor at Baldwin-Wallace College; Areas of expertise: international economics, contemporary social-economic issues, complexity and futures-based perspectives in economics. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org