Research shows that the single biggest threat to children’s health and wellbeing is poverty. Nationally, an estimated 15 million (21 percent) American children live below the Federal poverty line. While that stat is alarming enough, when you break them down by ethnicity, they tell a very different and all too common story.
In America today, white children experience poverty at a rate of 11 percent. By comparison, around 27 percent of Hispanic children, 31 percent of black children and 34 percent of Native American children are growing up poor. Here in Maricopa County, nearly 1 in 4 children live at or below the Federal poverty line.
What’s really troubling is that the designated poverty line thresholds are massively underestimated. It’s estimated families would need (on average) twice the amount of income listed just to make ends meet. By that standard, an astonishing 43 percent of American children live in low-income families.
The Consequences of Growing Up in Poverty
Research shows that growing up in a poor household has negative consequences that can follow children for a lifetime. Living in poverty impairs physical health, emotional and mental health, brain development, and school performance. Children living in poverty are less likely to graduate from high school, or go to college. With education level being one of the biggest factors in escaping poverty, it is the very definition of a vicious circle.
Short- and long-term consequences are why it’s so important to have programs and support services in place – to break the cycle of poverty. Increasingly, the burden is on each of us and on organizations to drive the necessary changes.
Leading the Fight Against Poverty By Example
The LeBron James Family Foundation set out to tackle the problem in James’ hometown of Akron, Ohio. LeBron grew up in poverty, and understands the huge challenges facing children in poverty. As an at-risk student, he missed 83 days of the 4th Grade while he and his mother were homeless and moving a lot. Without intervention and mentors – many of whom he met at school – he would not have begun to play basketball. The rest, as they say, is history.
When it comes to leading by example, LeBron is doing an outstanding job. Rather than funding a private or charter school, James chose to create programs designed to support, mentor, and empower low-performing 3rd and 4th grade students in public school – along with their parents to break the cycle of poverty.
Programs include a longer school day (9 am – 5 pm) from July to May. Good nutrition is a major part of the program – every child will have free breakfast, lunch, snacks and drinks each day, and a fitness center. Each child is also given a bicycle to encourage physical activity. Parents and guardians can also get help through GED courses and job placement. Children who successfully complete the I Promise School programs and go on to graduate high school will receive full tuition at the local public college, University of Akron courtesy of the LeBron James Family Foundation.
Bayless Integrated Health – Leading By Example Locally
With around 25 percent of children in Maricopa County living at or below the poverty line, it’s no surprise that so many lack access to needed healthcare services. For example, studies show 70 percent of Arizona children with major depression do not receive needed mental health treatment. As we see all too frequently, the continued lack of care for mental health disorders can have all-too deadly consequences.
As leaders, we’re not going to continue to accept this – we’re going to CHANGE IT.
At Bayless Integrated Healthcare, we have a long history of serving the underprivileged, low-income and at-risk populations in Maricopa County. To help expand vital access to underserved children and families, we’re proud to announce the opening of our new Avondale clinic.
Our Avondale clinic will be providing meaningful and affordable access to physical and behavioral health services to approximately 12,000 to 13,000 students in the Avondale Elementary School District, including Avondale Middle School, Elíseo C. Félix School and Lattie Coor School.
And since so many students in the Southwest Valley also face social and economic barriers to care such as lack of transportation, affordable housing and nutritious foods, Bayless Integrated Healthcare Clinic will combine forces with the Care1st Avondale Resource Center – a one-stop hub of community resources conveniently located across the street – to connect patients to social and human services. The center offers a variety of programs such as healthcare enrollment, Women, Infants and Children (WIC), financial literacy workshops, parenting classes, and more.
Together, we can and we will make meaningful change in the lives of Arizona’s children.