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Poverty and Children With Special Needs

Poverty is one of the most prevalent conditions for children with special needs. Already widely recognized as one of the major factors in a large number of social problems, poverty is a kind of umbrella so vast that it raises the question of whether it is a cause or an effect.

However, as far as the topic is concerned, we can definitively state that poverty is an appropriate way of summarizing the existence of a large number of contributing factors that make a family less likely to be able to support a child. having special needs.

Poverty as a causal factor

Poverty - lack of adequate money - by the parent (s) can directly contribute to the birth of a special-needs child through a large number of direct physical stressors, including but not limited to limit):

Poor nutrition: A malnourished fetus is likely to be born prematurely or have a low birth weight, both of which are definitely correlated with the diagnosis of special needs.

Neglect: Poor parents are much more likely to neglect their children simply out of necessity, leaving them alone or with inadequate care to continue paying their bills.

Abuse: poor parents are also much more likely to actively abuse their children, unable to cope with the stress of caring for a child while struggling with money and / or being addicted to psychotropic drugs that encourage them to act. abusively.

Exposure: Clearly, homelessness or inadequate shelter is much more prevalent among poor parents, which can cause developmental problems in infants.

• Illness: Insufficient health care is one of the hallmarks of modern poverty; a child of poor parents is much more likely to show the first signs of an unrecognized illness - or recognized and untreated - until the opportunity for prevention has passed.

In short, chronically poor families are far more likely to have children with special needs - and are also the least likely to be able to resist the stress of raising a child with special needs.

Single Parenthood, Poverty and Special Needs

A significant 8% of children born to two-parent families live at the poverty level or below the federal poverty line. This statistic alone is quite sinister - but it is important to note that in recent decades, the percentage of children born to single mothers has skyrocketed to 38% and that 32% of single-parent children live below poverty line. This represents an average of 22% of all American children who are "born poor" - and therefore have a much higher risk of being born with special needs, as described above.

In short, if we intend to seek a political solution to the growing number of children with special needs overwhelming our schools, there is one obvious area to start: the elimination of poverty. Recent efforts in Utah, as well as the large number of experiments conducted a few decades ago in Canada and the United States, have shown that we have the resources to do this, but not the political will.

The costs of children with special needs

According to a report entitled Expensive Children in Poor Families, 2,000 families surveyed accepting social assistance:

• 45% reported spending money on clothes, food, transportation, medicine, health care or specialized care for their children. The average cost for families reporting such costs: $ 143 the previous month. These children are not necessarily considered to have special needs, but families specify "specialized" goods or services, which means that generic offers are not suitable for their children.

• The average family caring for at least one child with moderate or severe disabilities had to spend enough time and effort to support the child, which resulted in the loss of an average work opportunity of $ 80 per month. .

• Unless a family receives SSI disability benefits for their child, the dependent expenses that would otherwise have been covered by SSI reduced the total effective income of the family, so that 12% of families who would have otherwise been considered acceptable were placed under poverty. level.

The effects of children with special needs on public assistance

Although public assistance specifically targets families with children with special needs, this section deals only with untargeted public assistance of the type generally available to families without children of this type. The same report revealed that:

• Families were more likely to receive assistance if they had a child with special needs, and

• This probability increases with each additional child with special needs, and

• Also increased with the severity of the disability that each child has treated.

In other words, precisely, as one might intuitively think, the more difficult a group of children is to deal with in terms of medical or social needs, the more likely it is that the family who supports them will receive public assistance untargeted.

Or, more succinctly, having children with special needs leads families to benefit from public support and to solicit it.

In addition, the study found that there were only two important fates for families of children with special needs who were on social assistance: they left social assistance but started to receive SSI disability. or remained assisted.

The effect of the severely disabled child equates to twice as much dependence on public assistance as the effect of the loss of a parent - implying that the cost of a child with a severe disability is greater than the income of one of the parents rising.

We have now seen how poverty is a major cause of special needs among children born to poor families and how one or more children with special needs push families into poverty. 

The vicious circle here should be immediately apparent: being poor will increase the chances of having a child with special needs, which will increase the likelihood of you remaining poor in the foreseeable future. This is a problem that desperately needs a solution.