Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Children Services posts banner

Athens County Children Services has placed a banner on East State Street (Athens, Ohio) expressing its concern for families living in extreme poverty and its impact on children.

The agency wants the community to recognize that this is a serious issue that is affecting the safety and well being of the children of this county.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Harmful Effect of Poverty

Athens County Children Services is the county agency responsible for protecting children from abuse and neglect. The agency provides an array of services to support families to keep children safely in their home. We know that research has identified several stress factors that can lead to abuse and neglect of children1. One of the stress factors is a family’s inability to meet their basic needs: food and shelter for their children. With the increasingly severe situations of poverty, we believe the risk of abuse and neglect are also increasing.

In July, 2008, Athens County Children Services caseworkers were asked whether or not poverty, the inability of parents to meet basic needs, were putting children at risk of abuse and neglect. The following are some of the responses from agency staff:

“I am so scared for families this winter. Although there is HEAP and other programs, some families face their utilities being turned off all the time. With the rise in gas prices, I fear for families this winter.”

“Transportation in this rural area is huge. How can they get to a job without a care and how can they save to buy a car without a job? It’s a vicious cycle.”

“I have seen families running out of food stamps well before the end of the month due to high food costs. I have shopped with a mother who did not buy her six children milk because it is too expensive.”

“80% of the elementary students in the school district qualify for free/reduced lunches this year, compared with 67% last year.”

“Transportation is a huge problem. Families become isolated and bored; parents become stressed and depressed. Even if we give families free pool passes, how do they get there?”

“I recently worked with a single mother with several children on cash assistance and food stamps. This family has no transportation, relying on others for transportation. They live in a two bedroom trailer in poor repair and inadequate furniture. The mother needs mental health services, but cannot get transportation for service or the funds to pay for medication….The family does not have the resources to function successfully: no bank account, no money to save, no transportation, medical bills they cannot afford and housing which is not suitable.”

“Families are often unable to afford housing, so they move from family to friends. The children do not have a home, no regular schools and no consistency. Some of these moves put children in homes with adults who are not safe around children.”

“The local homeless shelter has been full for the past several months, so homeless families have no place to go.”

“Parents have no medical cards and cannot get treatment for depression or other mental health problems.”

1. The Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect (NIS-3; Andrea J. Sedlak and Diane D. Broadhurst, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [HHS], National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect, Washington, DC, 1996), the most comprehensive federal source of information about the incidence of child maltreatment in the United States, found poverty/family income was significantly related to incidence rates in nearly every category of maltreatment. Reseachers noted that there are a number of problems associated with poverty that may contribute to child maltreatment: more transient residence, poorer education, and higher rates of substance abuse and emotional disorders. Moreover, families at the lower socioeconomic levels have less adequate social support systems to assist parents in their child care responsibilities.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

As you sow, so shall you reap

Many of the families our agency interacts with each day are facing choices between paying bills, buying food, and going without. As one of the poorest and smallest counties in Ohio, the staff of Vinton CDJFS see the problems our families encounter on a daily basis, many are our neighbors and family. Too many families (and elderly) are living at, or below, the poverty guidelines. Until we begin to increase the quality of life for the families we serve, they will continue to struggle with meeting their basic needs, which impacts their ability to function.

There is a Latin saying, "Ut sementem feceris, ita metes" (As you sow, so shall you reap). Ohio needs to take a serious look at it's priorities. Until we begin to raise the quality of life for the poorest of the poor, we will continue to pay a higher cost on the back end (i.e., families falling apart) for our lack of investment on the front.

Jody Walker, Director
Vinton County Department of Job and Family Services