As an early childhood educator in Rowan County for the past 34 years, I have observed many changes in young children’s lives that have negative and positive effects. The continued rise in poverty in our county has increased the negative effects on our children and the future of our county. One U.S. department of Agriculture report puts Rowan’s 2011 poverty rate at 18.9 percent with nearly 30 percent of our children living in poverty.” The effects of poverty on young children are astounding.
Salisbury has a high poverty level and a high property crime index. On a scale of 1-10, with the national average being three for crime on property, Salisbury is a seven. Statistics show that 61 percent of Rowan County students receive free lunches. Knox has approximately 80 percent of students living in poverty while Koontz has 89 percent of students living in poverty.
Children who live in extreme poverty or who live below the poverty line for multiple years suffer the worst outcomes. Children who experience poverty during their preschool and early school years have lower rates of school completion than children and adolescents who experience poverty only in later years.
Poverty presents a chronic stress for children and families that may interfere with successful adjustment to developmental tasks, including school achievement. The association between poverty and children’s development and academic performance has been well documented, beginning as early as the second year of life and extending through elementary and high school.
When these risks occur during preschool years, they can have long-lasting consequences. For example, readiness for school on entry to kindergarten sets the trajectory for future success. Lee and Burkman, found that most American students who start school significantly behind their peers can never close the readiness gap. Rather, the gap tends to widen as they move through school. The consequences of early school failure are increased likelihood of truancy, drop out, and unhealthy or delinquent behaviors.
Between 30 and 40% of children entering kindergarten in the United States are estimated to not be ready for school. In addition to the direct effects of a lack of resources or other risk factors associated with poverty, there are also negative effects of caregiver behavior, including inconsistent caregiving or harsh parenting, leading to more disorganized child behavior. The cycle continues as caregivers react to their children’s more difficult-to-handle behaviors.
Schools in our county are under-funded, beset by disciplinary problems, staffed by poorly equipped teachers, and confronted with difficulties meeting their educational mandates. This problem is not going to just go away and every aspect of our society and it’s future is affected by it. We must shine a light on this problem and develop long lasting strategies to combat this problem. No child deserves to grow up in poverty and it is everyone’s problem!
Adapted from: The Effect of Poverty on Child Development and Educational Outcomes
Norma Honeycutt is the Executive Director of Partners In Learning Child Development & Family Resource Center. Norma is one of the states strongest advocates for children with special needs serving on boards and commissions including the North Carolina Child Care Commission, Rowan County NCPreK Advisory Committee, and Rowan County Local Interagency Coordinating Council. Norma is also a CBRS therapist and facilitates support groups, activities, and other programs for families of children with special needs.