Poverty is a form of adversity that has lasting effects on children through several aspects of their lives such as behavior development, building relationships, and educational opportunities. With poverty becoming a pervasive and growing problem consideration of the policies and resources that need to be explored is vital for the success of these children. Poverty is often correlated with educational attainment as seen by the census bureau, which reported in 2014 that those with a bachelor’s degree or higher are at a poverty rate of five percent while those who have no high school diploma have a twenty-nine percent poverty rate (Census Bureau, 2015.
) Although those are two extremes it reveals that rates vary between those two percentages and as you can see there seems to be a direct association between education and poverty. Breaking down barriers to help support vulnerable and poor children is incredibly important for their future and lively hood. Without these opportunities and higher education resources, children are susceptible to being trapped in a life of poverty and adversity.
Education is the main route out of poverty for many children and it gives them the chance to acquire the skills and knowledge they need to function and prosper in the twenty-first century.
One of the most important things for children in early development is having stability and regulation in their external environments. In poverty there is often a lack of resources and the needs of the child may not be met such as balanced nutrition, healthy sleeping habits, and time to build fine motor skills.
A child can fall behind in their development of what is expected at their age range because their needs are not being met. Along with these skills, children begin to create moral development as well as emotional development and start to integrate values and standards into their worldview. Risks such as poverty can be a risk to this development and disrupt the external and internal progress of the child. Childhood intervention and targeted education programs have been shown to improve the cognitive performance and academic success of children experiencing poverty (Barnett, 1998.) Education is sometimes the only protective factor and gateway for these children to developmentally grow both physically and mentally. These risk factors often affect the adulthood of these children and without these interventions and focus on those protective factors many children are at risk of falling behind and not seeking out better education or job skills.
Studies have shown that social economics and even religion can play a large role in child poverty. Many important issues that contribute to an unhealthy economic culture further marginalize and discriminate against those who are already oppressed by the system. Some scholars argue that poverty is largely the result of social and behavioral shortages in people that seemingly make them less economically viable within society (Jordan, 2004.) Many Americans believe in this perspective that able-bodied adults are dependent on government assistance and that they are to blame because they lack some sort of discipline. This is largely believed because many people do not understand how unfair laws, lack of affordable housing, and requirements for government programs are the problem. The culture behind demonizing those who are in poverty has been a wildly spreading concept throughout America for quite some time.
We have seen a cut in government spending on safety nets that protect poor and marginalized people because of the culture, which often overstresses individual responsibility. Many societal issues such as racism, segregation, and sexism constantly cause inequalities in employment, education, and income for marginalized groups. The majority group has a head start in these areas compared to groups that deal with an extensive range of societal barriers daily in our social structure. Largely, those who are a minority or poor are often told that they must work harder, make sure they stay in and continue school, and do not have children that they cannot afford and if they do not do this then they are too blamed for being poor. This of course is a very simplistic view of a much more complex social phenomenon. Overlooking this culture we have built can lead to misguided policies therefore we need to better understand the cultural molds that guide these policy choices regarding the poor.
Low-income children have lower expectations for higher education achievement than non-poor individuals and also have lower outlooks for what they will reach. This is also more prominent amon among members of ethnic, national, sexual, or religious minorities such as migrants who are often viewed as nuisances or criminals. The hostility with which society treats these youth may further traumatize them beyond what poverty has. They repeatedly are subject to severe discrimination within health services and in the market. This can and sometimes leads to internalizing society’s negative views of them, which can be damaging to their self-esteem and their ability to have healthy relationships with others (NCCP, 2018.) Children in poverty are exposed to higher risks such as having to work long hours to support themselves or their families. They may be forced to work in hazardous or exploitive situations that endanger their mental, physical, and social development. Many of these youth are can be victims of violence, and physical and sexual abuse. Some of these youth turn to using drugs to reduce hunger, cold, and emotional pain or to help them sleep or stay awake. The effects of poverty on children will often go unnoticed because of the strong negative culture we have as an American society toward those who are poor.
Resilience Theory is a framework for social work research and assessment. Resiliency is often defined as the existence of high-risk conditions mixed with other positive forces that can lead to adaptive results. Children who are exposed to poverty will often be exposed to other risk factors as I had mentioned above. Having parents who may be abusive, health complications, or substance abuse can be a further strain on the successful devilment of a child. Children who cultivate social competence despite exposure to high stress are what the resiliency theory focuses on. We are all born with inborn resiliency with an ability to improve the qualities usually established in resilient survivors. Risk factors are compounded into a prolonged amount of stress which can increase vulnerability and have a higher influence on children. The resilience in this is overcoming odds that are against the individual and succeeding whether that mean recover from the trauma experienced or finding ways to evade the negative consequences of the risk factors.
There are many protective factors for these children as well that can essentially “protect” them from these risk factors. Protective factors may include family relationships, involvement with community and culture, and educational success. This strengths-based approach can be very effective when there are open opportunities for the children such as educational resources, social support, and the presence of a caring and supporting adult. There are often limitations with these supportive factors that are not available for children in communities where poverty is relevant.
Systems Theory explains human behavior as the crossing of the impacts of multiple interconnected systems. Things that can be considered part of these systems are families, organizations, and even societies. According to this theory, all systems are connected parts establishing a methodical whole and each subsystem influences other parts of that whole. Systems theory is used to create a holistic view of individuals within an environment. This theory is best applied to situations where several systems are connected and influence one another. Since poverty is a structural issue that would mean a part of the system in this theory is weak and even debilitating to those children in poverty.
The revolving door of poverty is a key example of how if a structure of a system is broken it often can limit to development and abilities of those who are at an already disadvantage. The impact that poverty has on these structures can be considered when discussing resilience theory and whether or not these systems are protective factors for these children. The goal of a social worker is to strengthen these systems because of the powerful impact they can have. Strengthening the education portion of a system can, directly and indirectly, protect and support other systems in a child’s life. With educational opportunities and resource programs a child is more likely to have a network of adults who care about their well-being and growth.
Discussed in this paper were analyses of what poverty can do to child development and the theories we can apply as social workers to help these disadvantaged kids. The culture surrounding poverty is both dangerous and uninformed which makes the impact of poverty much more traumatizing and binding for those growing in, up in it. Both systems theory and resilience theory can make understand the impact of poverty on developmental stages and adulthood for this population. These theories can also help social workers better empower their clients and build a better understanding of their clients as a whole. Social workers are often familiar with working with those affected by poverty, therefore, creating a risk assessment and working resourcefully and creatively to help individuals and communities. The goal is to better understand their situation and work with their strengths and environment, where possible.
Community development is frequently overlooked because it requires skills in analyses of communities, public planning, and communal action. With community development, you must have the ability to foster economic opportunities and work alongside the residents of said community to create change and better advocacy. There is no one answer to approach poverty but there are underlining issues involved with how we view those in poverty and how we treat them. It is important as a social worker to understand the impacts of this possible trauma on child and their development and how it would affect multiple aspects of their lives.