The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

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August 27, 2013

Children in need

"We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American, she is free, and she is equal not just in the eyes of God, but also in our own." -- President Barack Obama

Over 32.4 million US children live in low-income families with 16 million (22 percent) living below the federal poverty level ($22,000 with a family of four). According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 20 percent of children under age 6 live in poverty, a rate two to three times higher than that of other major industrial nations. Poverty is a major determinant of health and a significant factor in perpetuating health disparities. Poverty has many faces; from hunger to homelessness to hopelessness.

Furthermore, we know that poverty in childhood has a long and lasting impact on the child well into adulthood by creating toxic stress on the developing child. That toxic stress contributes to increased rates of asthma, obesity, dental caries, injuries, mental health problems, HIV infections, and tobacco exposure in children who live in poverty. The factors contributing to these increased rates reside not only with individual or family but in the community, environment, society and policy arenas.

Poverty is strongly linked with child neglect. It can be construed as a form of societal neglect, particularly in a country with enormous resources. However, most low-income families are not neglectful of their children. Conversely, neglect is hardly limited to poor families.

The U.S. government actually has an action plan for children in adversity. The goal of the plan is to achieve a world in which all children grow up within protective family care and free from deprivation, exploitation and danger. The plan is grounded in evidence that shows a promising future belongs to those nations that invest wisely in their children while failure to do so undermines social and economic progress.

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