We welcome back Esther Y. Guzman, director of the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership. Esther who is not a stranger on Poverty’s Edge was born and raised in Puerto Rico and is the proud mother of two sons, Angel Luis & Francisco Javier. Over the years she has been involved in the fight against domestic violence, Puerto Rican and immigration rights and cultural affairs. She is a certified trainer for “Diversity & Sensitivity” classes. Esther has been serving as the Director of the West Ward Neighborhood Partnership for over a year and has worked for CACLV for many years prior to that.
We read statistics and stories all the time about poverty, hunger, lack of affordable housing and crime. Until it personally affects us though, most of us don’t take action. Well, I am involved in trying to save three little girls, all under the age of 3, from an unstable home. Reading some training material on how to become a foster parent, I came across a study in the American Journal of Public Health that shows how children are negatively impacted when they don’t have a stable home.
Right about now you are probably saying “that’s what happens when kids go into foster care”. However, the study shows that kids who move multiple times within a year regardless of whether they were in foster care, are most likely to have health problems ranging from developmental problems to obesity.
Complicating the situation is the fact that 25.3 percent of children under the age of six live in poverty in the U.S. (Census 2010). Consequently, the richest country in the world has far too many children with poor health, delays in their development, and lower reading levels when they start first grade and are most likely to drop out of school; now we have long-term effects of poverty and unstable housing.
When we encounter families that have moved 5 or 6 times because they cannot afford to pay the rent, or they have to leave an abusive relationship, or their jobs require them to live closer due to challenges with public transportation, we never think how it affects the children. I’m guilty of overlooking how these circumstances may have affected the children, I have been concerned about the occurrence of domestic violence, slum landlords, and the lack of transportation but I never thought to ask the children how they feel about having to relocate so frequent, much less follow-up with some of them through their teen years to see if they are still in school, still in abusive relationships, still teen moms or still living in poverty themselves.
Hunger and poverty are much bigger issues that take a toll on all family members, not for a short period of time but, unfortunately, for their whole lives. Let’s do something about it, let’s get involved in the fight against hunger and poverty; let’s mentor kids…. let’s make sure that we have a healthy group of children that can become the leaders of this country. Let’s leave our own comfort zones and become part of “the village” that is needed to raise our kids.