At-Risk Children: Statement of Need
Poverty threatens every aspect of a child’s life, from nutrition and physical health to school achievement and social development. Impoverished children, especially those whose lives have been disrupted by basic issues of survival (loss of food, shelter, care) have a critical number of risk factors for both academic and social failure coupled with educational and emotional needs greater than the average student. In this past year, the number of children living in poverty has skyrocketed to 14.1 million and the number of children living in extreme poverty has increased by over half a million to 6.3 million. According to the National Center on Family Homelessness more than 1.5 million children live in families without a home. More children are being pulled into poverty and those who are already poor have fewer resources than ever before.
Education has long been considered the great equalizer between children who are poor and those who are not. However, research shows that children from poor families are often academically delayed upon entering school and in the majority of cases never catch up. From the beginning these children score lower on proficiency tests and social indicators, setting in motion a cycle of remediation and retention that plagues them throughout their school years. Statistically, children who fail in school are more likely as adults to be unemployed, in poor health, living in poverty, on public assistance and ultimately single parents whose children also have health problems and who are also at risk of dropping out of school. The social and economic implications for our society are profound.
Having served hundreds of impoverished children over the past ten years, Scottie’s Place has found many of these children to be failing in their schools. Though they are intelligent and capable these children struggle in class, fall behind their peers and are often medicated for behavioral issues. Within the confines of the public schools these children rarely experience academic success; as they move up through the grades their failures multiply until they extinguish the will to learn along with hope for a productive future. Public schools are unable to meet the needs of many of these children, yet in most communities there are no educational alternatives for impoverished families: no publicly funded charter schools, no voucher programs, no private schools whose tuition is within economic reach. The toll exacted upon poor children is a high drop-out rate and a guarantee that the cycle of poverty will continue.