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Child Poverty Essay, Research Paper

Poverty, is a problem that affects all citizens of Canada. This is an issue that will linger and become worse if not focused on. The reason there is such an abundance of children that are poor is because they are dependent on adults that are poor. The stemming problem of poor adults arises from the Canadian government. Poor social structure has lead to many families living in impoverished conditions. Children are the ones suffering from the social system provided by the government. They will be the victims of many future obstacles caused by childhood poverty. The effects and consequences of child poverty are very horrendous. With the aid off all people child poverty can be resolved and brought to a minimal state.

Child Poverty originates from the parent(s) of the family. The parent(s) suffers from poor economic and/or demographic problems. In order to receive a higher understanding child poverty, some definitions will be explained. The descriptions used by Canadian Council on Social Development are:

A child is considered to be any individual under the age of 18. Family is a group of individuals related by blood, marriage (including common-law relationships) or adoption, who share common dwelling in which at least one person is under 18 years of age. Lone parents also commonly used as single parent include never-married, separated or divorced persons not currently living with a legal or common spouse. Lone parents include only those with a dependent child under the age of 18 living at home. Two parents refer to married or common-law spouses. Two parent families include only those with a dependent child under the age of 18 years living at home. (4)

These definitions will be an aid to learning the conditions of poverty. These are the types of surroundings that impoverished children come from. It can be said that the children have no choice towards the poverty stricken environments. They are dependent on the parents for financial purposes and cannot escape the reality of financial struggles. Therefore, child poverty is the result of adult poverty.

Canadian Council on Social Development defines child poverty as “a poor child is one who lives in a family with a total income below the Statistics Canada low income cut-off.” (5). The poverty line helps the government distinguish between those who are living in poverty and those who are not. The poverty line, known in Canada as the low income cut-off (LICO) is determined as, any family that spends 20 percent more than an average family on food, shelter, and clothing. This means majority of their family annual income is used towards these items. “[As a guide to comprehend child poverty] . . . in 1990 low-income Canadians spent 56.2 percent or more of their income on necessities. Where as the average Canadian family spent 36.2 percent of gross income on food, shelter, and clothing” (Baxter 1993 2). If impoverished families spend more than 50 percent of their incomes toward necessities, than there is not plenty of money to spend on other needs such as transportation, phone, any forms of entertainment, birthday and Christmas gifts for the children. Food, shelter, health care and other necessities are crucial for children’s wellbeing, and extra income can make life more enjoyable.

Today the numbers of children living in poverty are rising quickly. Canadian Council on Social Development (CCDS) has given the newest statistics on child poverty “in 1997 1, 472, 000 children live in poverty in comparison with 1989 934, 000 children lived in poverty” (1997 Report Card, CCDS web-site). This is an increase of 58 percent, which is pretty horrifying. Within less than ten years the child poverty numbers have increased drastically. This means the goal of eliminating child poverty becomes more challenging. Canadian Council on Social Development also stated “the poverty gap, the money it would take to lift all poor children in Canada out of poverty has increased from 4.6 Billion in 1989 to 7.1 Billion in 1997″ (1997 Report Card, CCDS web-site). These statistics are negative signs for Canadian government.

The Canadian Government is partially responsible for children in poverty. The social systems they have set up and the social systems they have neglected. Minimum wage is a good example of where the original intentions of the government were to help the poor and low income people. In fact it victimizes the poor and low income people. Every time minimum wage is increased in which the government assumes will benefit the poor people; it puts them at greater danger. The reaction of employers towards the increase of minimum wage is to hire more skilled and qualified workers, or they may decide not to hire and give more hours to existing workers. This hurts any person that is seeking employment and especially the impoverished adults because they are considered to be less skillful and less qualified for the job.

Another glitch in the government system is rent controls. This is where the government has set a maximum amount that landlords can rent out their properties for. Rent controls were originally designed to provide assistance for the low income individuals. Affordable housing is a very important asset to the impoverished families, because one of the main items that majority of their income is devoted towards, is shelter. The only problem with rent controls is in some areas they are set too low and the landlords to not want to rent out at such low prices because they do not profit at such a level. To compensate for such losses, the landlords may incorporate “key money”, parking stall fees, or make cutbacks in housing repairs. “Key money” is the case which the government has determined the apartment to cost $500 monthly and to compensate from the lost profits, the landlords will charge $200 for the key to the apartment. Parking stall fees is the same idea of charging money for an item that was once free to reimburse the landlord for lost profits. The most dangerous for the poverty stricken families is the neglect the landlords have towards their properties. Since they are not profiting as much as they would like too, they will not put extra money towards repairs and maintenance. This creates a hazardous environment for people to live in. The Canadian Council on Social Development explains that:

“it is not surprising that families in the poorest quintile are three times more likely to live in housing without smoke detectors, twice as likely to be without a fire extinguisher, twice as likely to live in housing that requires major repairs, and twice as likely to have concerns about the overall safety and security of their dwellings” (17).

These are the living conditions that poor families encounter.

Economic and demographic forces are another problem adults in poverty face. The inequality of earnings among workers concludes in a larger proportion of the population in poverty. The problem is real earnings of workers has not increased by a whole lot, but inflation rates have increased. This means the purchasing power of the dollar is less as inflation rises. For the low income earners they must spend more of their income towards food, shelter, and clothing prior to rises of inflation.

Another problem is the education standards in the work force that workers of poor families confront. Many have minimal education levels which puts them at a disadvantage to be able to seek employment competitively. For those whom want to upgrade their education levels may not be able to because of the high costs of education. Without government funding towards schooling, many individuals cannot afford post-secondary levels of education. Without post-secondary education many poor adults cannot pursue higher paying jobs. They are left only with the option of settling for less skilled and hard labour jobs. This means there is less opportunity for an individual to be relieved from property. Governments should provide more job opportunites and a chance to improve education levels for poverty stricken adults.

All adult poverty conditions have a direct impact on children. Any child that lives with an adult that has to face any of those above problems is a child living in poverty. The children have no control of their surroundings they live in. And the adults have no control of the social surroundings they must survive in.

Generally speaking child poverty is associated with the negative aspects of life. Many problems and issues begin with poverty. A child in poverty encounters numerous difficulties, due to financial struggles. Poor health and hygiene is only a beginning of many obstacles the child will confront in life. The effects in childhood can last well into the adult years. Consequences children in poverty struggle with:

Not only do poor children poor children have access to fewer material goods than rich or middle-class children, but also they are more likely to experience poor health and to die during childhood. In school, they score lower on standardized tests and are more likely to be retained in grade and to drop out. Poor teens are more likely to have out-of-wedlock births and to experience violent crime. Finally, poor children are more likely to end up as poor adults. (Lewit et al. 1997 8)

In terms of health, poverty puts children at a great disadvantage. Children born under the conditions of poverty are more likely to be born pre-mature and have low birth weight or suffer from mortality. There is a much higher rate of infant mortality among the poor infants than in rich infants. There is a correlation between low birth weight and poor families. Many factors are associated with low birth weight such as maternal health during pregnancy and the use of cigarettes and alcohol. The most significant factor is low socio-economic status. With low incomes families are unable to nourish the fetus properly during the maternal stages. The life expectancy of children born into poverty is also much shorter, and the chances of having chronic health problems are much higher. “lack of money affects the quantity of food, and an inadequate diet prevents a child from properly developing physically, mentally and emotionally” (Baxter 1993 189)

Scholastic achievement is an obstacle for many impoverished children. Children living in poverty conditions do not do as well in school. They obtain low scores on school readiness. “Deprived material environment hinders a child’s ability to concentrate on learning” (Ross et al. 1996 13). Therefore, under these circumstances children have problems concentrating in school and results in poor grades at school. It is not made any easier at school with the curriculums and programs that do not facilitate the needs of the children. Programs such as the lunch program are needed to help provide children with a meal enabling them to concentrate and think better in school. Many of these impoverished children are more likely to drop out of school because their achievements are poor. This will eventually lead to poor employment prospects for the young adult.

Children are at the most vulnerable stage of socialization. Much of the socialization occurs outside of the home and possible in school. Many children face the problems of being teased they are poor and secluded from the main stream children at schools. Children begin to believe what others constantly tell them and live under the pressure of conforming with the other school kids. Simple items such as clothing and toys are status symbols in school. Often the impoverished children feel embarrassed because they do not have the clothing and the toys that all the other school kids have. Children are teased at school for wearing the same out-fit for a few days in a role. When a child lives in these conditions, they begin to take on the belief that they are poor and may believe they are not as good as the others. When asked the question “What would you like to change if you had the power?” (Baxter 1993 52). Many children replied that they would eliminate poverty by giving people money. This way nobody would be poor and people could buy all the necessities (such as clothing, toys) that they needed.

There are numerous solutions that can help eliminate child poverty. The Canadian government has the leading role in doing so. The most significant factor “is understanding the relationships among income, other parental characteristics , community factors, and environmental hazards and child outcomes is key to designing effective policies to ameliorate the problems of poor children” (Lewit et al. 9). When these factors are recognized solving child poverty is a little more of an ease. In Canada the government has launched “Campaign 2000″. This is a goal to eliminate child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. Within this campaign numerous actions have been taken to help those in poverty. Public awareness of poverty was increased. This informs citizens that when a family lives in poverty, all people pay through social assistance programs such as employment insurance. Therefore, if more are aware of poverty, they can help and less will be deducted from them to pay for employment insurance. Campaign 2000 is also devoting more money towards social assistance programs. Many forms of social assistance can be eradicated through the government. Items such as food stamps, food banks, child care, transfer payments, providing affordable housing, housing subsidies lunch programs, improving labor markets are all forms of solutions to aid child poverty.

In conclusion child poverty is very deviating to the child and our social programs. Adult poverty has a tremendous impact on child poverty. Child Poverty is not a prosperous future for any child. The elimination of child poverty is possible, but only with the participation of citizens and government. The problem only worsens if not paid attention to. The children are our future.

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