ONTD Political

Profiting From a Child’s Illiteracy

5:24 pm - 12/09/2012
THIS is what poverty sometimes looks like in America: parents here in Appalachian hill country pulling their children out of literacy classes. Moms and dads fear that if kids learn to read, they are less likely to qualify for a monthly check for having an intellectual disability.

Many people in hillside mobile homes here are poor and desperate, and a $698 monthly check per child from the Supplemental Security Income program goes a long way — and those checks continue until the child turns 18.

“The kids get taken out of the program because the parents are going to lose the check,” said Billie Oaks, who runs a literacy program here in Breathitt County, a poor part of Kentucky. “It’s heartbreaking.”

This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire.

Some young people here don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments.

Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage: In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.

Most wrenching of all are the parents who think it’s best if a child stays illiterate, because then the family may be able to claim a disability check each month.

“One of the ways you get on this program is having problems in school,” notes Richard V. Burkhauser, a Cornell University economist who co-wrote a book last year about these disability programs. “If you do better in school, you threaten the income of the parents. It’s a terrible incentive.”

About four decades ago, most of the children S.S.I. covered had severe physical handicaps or mental retardation that made it difficult for parents to hold jobs — about 1 percent of all poor children. But now 55 percent of the disabilities it covers are fuzzier intellectual disabilities short of mental retardation, where the diagnosis is less clear-cut. More than 1.2 million children across America — a full 8 percent of all low-income children — are now enrolled in S.S.I. as disabled, at an annual cost of more than $9 billion.

That is a burden on taxpayers, of course, but it can be even worse for children whose families have a huge stake in their failing in school. Those kids may never recover: a 2009 study found that nearly two-thirds of these children make the transition at age 18 into S.S.I. for the adult disabled. They may never hold a job in their entire lives and are condemned to a life of poverty on the dole — and that’s the outcome of a program intended to fight poverty.

THERE’S no doubt that some families with seriously disabled children receive a lifeline from S.S.I. But the bottom line is that we shouldn’t try to fight poverty with a program that sometimes perpetuates it.

A local school district official, Melanie Stevens, puts it this way: “The greatest challenge we face as educators is how to break that dependency on government. In second grade, they have a dream. In seventh grade, they have a plan.”

There’s a danger in drawing too firm conclusions about an issue — fighting poverty — that is as complex as human beings themselves. I’m no expert on domestic poverty. But for me, a tentative lesson from the field is that while we need safety nets, the focus should be instead on creating opportunity — and, still more difficult, on creating an environment that leads people to seize opportunities.

To see what that might mean, I tagged along with Save the Children, the aid group we tend to think of as active in Sudan or Somalia. It’s also in the opportunity business right here in the United States, in places like the mobile home of Britny Hurley — and it provides a model of what does work.

Ms. Hurley, 19, is amiable and speaks quickly with a strong hill accent, so that at times I had trouble understanding her. Ms. Hurley says that she was raped by a family member when she was 12, and that another family member then introduced her to narcotics. She became an addict, she says, mostly to prescription painkillers that are widely trafficked here.

Equipped with a crackling intelligence, Ms. Hurley once aspired to be a doctor. But her addictions and a rebellious nature got her kicked out of high school, and at 16 she became engaged to a boyfriend and soon had his baby.

Yet there are ways of breaking this cycle. That’s what Save the Children is doing here, working with children while they’re still malleable, and it’s an approach that should be a centerpiece of America’s antipoverty program. Almost anytime the question is poverty, the answer is children.

Save the Children trains community members to make home visits to at-risk moms like Ms. Hurley, and help nurture the skills they need in the world’s toughest job: parenting. These visits begin in pregnancy and continue until the child is 3 years old.

I followed Courtney Trent, 22, one of these early childhood coordinators, as she visited a series of houses. She encourages the mothers (and the fathers, if they’re around) to read to the children, tell stories, talk to them, hug them. If the parents can’t read, then Ms. Trent encourages them to flip the pages on picture books and talk about what they see.

Ms. Trent brings a few books on each visit, and takes back the ones she had left the previous time. Many of the homes she visits don’t own a single children’s book.

She sat on the floor in Ms. Hurley’s living room, pulled a book out of her bag, and encouraged her to read to her 20-month-old son, Landon. Ms. Hurley said that she was never read to as a child, but she was determined to change the pattern.

“I just want him to go to school,” she said of Landon. “I want him to go to college and get out of this place.” Ms. Hurley said she was clean of drugs, working full time at a Wendy’s, and hoping to go back to school to become a nurse. I’d bet on her — and on Landon.

“When kids come to us through this program and come here, we can see a big difference,” Ron Combs, the principal at Lyndon B. Johnson Elementary School here, told me. “They’re really ready to go. Otherwise, we have kids so far behind that they struggle to catch up.

“By second or third grade, you have a pretty good feeling about who’s going to drop out,” he added.

A group of teachers were in the room, and they all nodded. Wayne Sizemore, director of special education in Breathitt County, puts it this way: “The earlier we can get them, the better. It’s like building a foundation for a house.”

I don’t want to suggest that America’s antipoverty programs are a total failure. On the contrary, they are making a significant difference. Nearly all homes here in the Appalachian hill country now have electricity and running water, and people aren’t starving.

Our political system has created a particularly robust safety net for the elderly, focused on Social Security and Medicare — because the elderly vote. This safety net has brought down the poverty rate among the elderly from about 35 percent in 1959 to under 9 percent today.

BECAUSE kids don’t have a political voice, they have been neglected — and have replaced the elderly as the most impoverished age group in our country. Today, 22 percent of children live below the poverty line.

Of American families living in poverty today, 8 out of 10 have air-conditioning, and a majority have a washing machine and dryer. Nearly all have microwave ovens. What they don’t have is hope. You see it here in the town of Jackson, in the teenage girls hanging out by the bridge over the north fork of the Kentucky River, seeking to trade their bodies for prescription painkillers or methamphetamines.

A growing body of careful research suggests that the most effective strategy is to work early on children and education, and to try to encourage and sustain marriage. Bravo to Mayor Julián Castro of San Antonio for backing a landmark initiative to add one-eighth of 1 percent to the local sales tax to finance a prekindergarten program. Early interventions are not a silver bullet, and even programs that succeed as experiments often fall short when scaled up. But we end up paying for poverty one way or another, and early childhood education is far cheaper than adult incarceration. I hope that the budget negotiations in Washington may offer us a chance to take money from S.S.I. and invest in early childhood initiatives instead.

One reason antipoverty initiatives don’t get traction in America is that the issue is simply invisible.

“People don’t want to talk about poverty in America,” Mark Shriver, who runs the domestic programs of Save the Children, noted as we drove through Kentucky. “We talk more about poverty in Africa than we do about poverty in America.”

Indeed, in the 2012 election campaign, poverty was barely mentioned. A study by Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting, a liberal watchdog organization, found substantive discussion of poverty in just 0.2 percent of campaign news reports.

Look, there are no magic wands, and helping people is hard. One woman I met, Anastasia McCormick, told me that her $500 car had just broken down and she had to walk two miles each way to her job at a pizza restaurant. That’s going to get harder because she’s pregnant with twins, due in April.

At some point, Ms. McCormick won’t be able to hold that job anymore, and then she’ll have trouble paying the bills. She has rented a washer and dryer, but she’s behind in payments, and they may soon be hauled back. “I got a ‘discontinue’ notice on the electric,” she added, “but you get a month to pay up.” Life is like that for her, a roller coaster partly of her own making.

I don’t want to write anybody off, but I admit that efforts to help Ms. McCormick may end with a mixed record. But those twin boys she’s carrying? There’s time to transform their lives, and they — and millions like them — should be a national priority. They’re too small to fail.

source
schexyschteve 10th-Dec-2012 04:05 am (UTC)
"This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency"

That could be partially because the safety nets in place don't adequately help cover the cost of living. Sure, there's minimum wage, but no one can live on the pay from minimum wage job, especially if they have a family (and that's if you're lucky enough to have full-time hours). And then there's that fine line where you have to work to get help, but you can't work too much or you'll make too much to get any help.

I like that this article stressed the importance of early child education. I'm in the early childhood field, so it hits close to home.

Edited at 2012-12-10 04:11 am (UTC)
roadskoller 10th-Dec-2012 05:21 am (UTC)
I'm sorry people, but in this small corner of Milwaukee, my next door neighbors and their friends are concerned about the size of the check.
I realize this is a very small view, but I'm getting discouraged.
squeeful 10th-Dec-2012 04:14 am (UTC)
"This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency"

This line is such bullshit. If it is impossible for otherwise capable people to live without the help of social safety nets and are still suffering, your society is broke. The issue isn't the social programs.
anjak_j 10th-Dec-2012 04:44 am (UTC)
MTE.
zinnia_rose 10th-Dec-2012 04:25 am (UTC)
Life is like that for her, a roller coaster partly of her own making.

Excuse you? How exactly is it her own making? She should have kept her legs closed and magically stopped her car from breaking down, I guess.
alexvdl 10th-Dec-2012 04:40 am (UTC)
Last time I checked, birth control and prophylactics are readily available, and abortion is still legal.
tabaqui 10th-Dec-2012 04:31 am (UTC)
While this sucks big time, this is not 'government dependency' and this in no way justifies the hard-right's revolting agenda. This is a fucked up society that tries to pay employees the lowest possible income, and screw them over in every way from too-expensive health care to have to be practically living in a cardboard box to qualify for help.

Like squeeful said above - this is a BROKE SOCIETY, not people being lazy. Jayzus.
terra_tenshi 10th-Dec-2012 06:07 am (UTC)
Actually, government dependency is exactly what it is in that without government assistance these people would not be able to maintain what little standard of living they have now. The big difference between this and the hard-rights argument is that it isn't *voluntary* government dependency because people are lazy.
a_phoenixdragon 10th-Dec-2012 04:57 am (UTC)
Gods this is terrible. And everywhere. This is what I'm trying to keep MY children from... But poverty exists and sometimes, the system fails from the outside in. The people that are keeping their kids from that education to continue to get checks (which stumps me - how they get paid for their kids NOT being educated without going to jail) are trying to help, but it is a backwards system. Educate or feed? That's what it sounds like to me.

But the poor are notoriously put between a rock and a hard place. I'm trying to make it so my kids don't have to depend on a broken system. But that might not work. I'll just have to cross my fingers, help them be the best they can be and help them to understand where they have come from. Being poor sucks. I should know.

Edited at 2012-12-10 05:00 am (UTC)
terra_tenshi 10th-Dec-2012 06:12 am (UTC)
"The people that are keeping their kids from that education to continue to get checks (which stumps me - how they get paid for their kids NOT being educated without going to jail) are trying to help, but it is a backwards system."

Because most benefits look at whether or not a child meets certain standards, not whether they could meet those standards or not. Also, truancy laws in some areas are ridiculously lenient to the point that as long as the child attends 30% of the total school year they aren't counted as being truant. The laws were largely in acted by well meaning people who haven't often been placed in the situations that these people have so they don't consider the idea that they're leaving loopholes and situations where it's better for parents to handicap their children.
effervescent 10th-Dec-2012 05:37 am (UTC)
I don’t want to write anybody off, but I admit that efforts to help Ms. McCormick may end with a mixed record. But those twin boys she’s carrying? There’s time to transform their lives, and they — and millions like them — should be a national priority. They’re too small to fail.

What the fuck is this paragraph? Oh, the mother's a lost cause, but the ~babies~ need our help?

:/ There are parts that I agree with in this entry - it's fucked up that parents feel the need to pull their kids out of programs to help, purely because of the money. They shouldn't be put in that situation.

Idk, this article just seemed like the writer is trying really hard to not be critical of the people he thinks needs help , and yet being exactly that.
luminescnece 10th-Dec-2012 04:23 pm (UTC)
That's how poverty aid goes in this country. Once you're an adult in poverty no one wants to help you get out of it because you're tainted and awful.

But the babies, they are innocent of their poverty. It isn't their fault. We'll base all our aide on the babies and as soon as the awful parent is free of them we can stop funding such an unworthy... oh wait. That creates a perverse incentive for people to have kids instead of trying to get themselves out of poverty because the only way they get help is if they have kids and there's no help for them on their own?

Oh right. The way we see the poor is really culturally ingrained in all of us. Even those who HAVE been poor or grew up in poverty. But it doesn't excuse us for being judgemental shits.
defacetheessays 10th-Dec-2012 05:54 am (UTC)
I’m no expert on domestic poverty

then shut the fuck up.
zinnia_rose 10th-Dec-2012 06:27 am (UTC)
LOL A+
usnbfs 10th-Dec-2012 08:15 am (UTC)
I don’t want to suggest that America’s antipoverty programs are a total failure. On the contrary, they are making a significant difference. Nearly all homes here in the Appalachian hill country now have electricity and running water, and people aren’t starving.
sounds like some of them would be starving, if they didn't 'play the system'.
terra_tenshi 10th-Dec-2012 09:10 am (UTC)
"sounds like some of them would be starving, if they didn't 'play the system'."

Sadly, it depends on how you define "starving". And yes, there are multiple possible definitions.
pleasure_past 10th-Dec-2012 10:45 am (UTC)
This is painful for a liberal to admit, but conservatives have a point when they suggest that America’s safety net can sometimes entangle people in a soul-crushing dependency. Our poverty programs do rescue many people, but other times they backfire.

Uuuuugh go fuck yourself, article writer. No. If people are keeping their children ignorant in order to stay on benefits, that speaks to the weakness of our benefit system; it is not an example of it "backfiring." The correct response to this system is to set the system up such that the financial security of a good chunk of the laboring class does not depend on the ignorance of its children, not to take the benefits away entirely.

I really can't understate how badly I want to kick this writer in the teeth right now. Yeah, as long as it's painful for you to throw the laboring class under the fucking bus, then it's okay.

Some young people here don’t join the military (a traditional escape route for poor, rural Americans) because it’s easier to rely on food stamps and disability payments.

No. Really. Fuck off forever. No one ever just wakes up and says "Hey! You know what would be easier? Becoming so disabled that I won't be able to work because I'll lose the vital senses or physical strength that I depend upon to provide for my family and in any case I'll be spending a ridiculous amount of time in the hospital and probably in significant pain, and only some of those necessary doctors bills will actually be covered by medicare. That's so much ~easier~ than just getting a job or serving my country!"

Also fuck the idea that the military is a good escape from rural poverty. I came from a poor rural area, and it's pretty fucking ridiculous how hard the military was pushed on us whether we were pacifists or opposed to the two wars that were going on when we came of age or just didn't fucking want to join the military and had other plans for our lives. (I didn't originally that they made us all take the ASVAB, but then they blatantly broke their promise not to try to recruit us based on our test scores and I spent months receiving shit from the AirForce, and that was back when lesbians were not allowed to serve openly anyway, and I... was not amused.) It isn't voluntary if we're convincing poor children that it's their only way out of a lifetime of crippling poverty.

Antipoverty programs also discourage marriage:

OH NOES. NOT MARRIAGE. QUICK, PROTECT THE MARRIAGE.

In a means-tested program like S.S.I., a woman raising a child may receive a bigger check if she refrains from marrying that hard-working guy she likes. Yet marriage is one of the best forces to blunt poverty. In married couple households only one child in 10 grows up in poverty, while almost half do in single-mother households.

This is so fucking condescending to single mothers. "You may think that single parenthood is what's best for you, but you're wrong! If you weren't so busy leeching off the system, you'd see that all you really need is a nice strong man to provide for you and your babies!" I love my step-dad, but my mom's marriage did hurt us financially, and he and my mom will both admit to that. I know plenty of single parents who choose common-law marriages over official marriages for exactly that reason without it really impacting their relationship with their SO or their children's relationships with their step-parent.

“If you do better in school, you threaten the income of the parents. It’s a terrible incentive.”

IT'S A TERRIBLE DISABILITY PROGRAM. Isn't the whole point of disability payments for children to enable the parents to afford extra help for the children? Shouldn't the point be to see children with learning disabilities start doing better in school? If we're punishing laboring class families for what ought to be the goal of the program, that's our fucking fault, not theirs. I am so sick of seeing middle- and upper-class assholes put these absurd and counter-productive rules in place and fight to keep them in place and then demonize the laboring class for playing by them.

That is a burden on taxpayers, of course,

OH NOES, YOUR MONIES.
pleasure_past 10th-Dec-2012 10:46 am (UTC)
Those kids may never recover: a 2009 study found that nearly two-thirds of these children make the transition at age 18 into S.S.I. for the adult disabled.

Wut. We're defining it as a failure of our program to support disabled children that 66% of these children do not magically stop being disabled when they turn 18? Really? The fuck did you think was gong to happen there? Especially when it sounds like if parents put this money toward programs that would actually help their children, they'd lose their money, and thus it is completely fucking impossible under this system for these poor children to receive the help they need. And that isn't their parents' faults. It's the system's fault, because it is clearly a broke and shitty system. We are acting like this is a case of people misusing the system when really it sounds to me like people are using this system exactly how this system was designed to be used. This is 100% a manufacturing error, not a pilot error.

A local school district official, Melanie Stevens, puts it this way: “The greatest challenge we face as educators is how to break that dependency on government. In second grade, they have a dream. In seventh grade, they have a plan.”

Nothing inspires children quite like your thinly veiled contempt for them as lazy moochers.

There’s a danger in drawing too firm conclusions about an issue — fighting poverty — that is as complex as human beings themselves. I’m no expert on domestic poverty. But for me, a tentative lesson from the field is that while we need safety nets, the focus should be instead on creating opportunity — and, still more difficult, on creating an environment that leads people to seize opportunities.

Shut up. You admit that you know absolutely nothing about what you're writing about. You clearly know absolutely nothing about what you're writing about. Just. Stop. Writing.

Save the Children trains community members to make home visits to at-risk moms like Ms. Hurley, and help nurture the skills they need in the world’s toughest job: parenting. These visits begin in pregnancy and continue until the child is 3 years old.

Oh good, yes, let's tell laboring class mothers that they are by default bad mothers and that what they really need is some nice rich person to set them straight on all of the things they surely will do wrong otherwise because of course it is poor people's fault that they are poor and damn them for raising their children to be poor because they don't love their children and want what's best for them like rich people do.

She encourages the mothers (and the fathers, if they’re around) to read to the children, tell stories, talk to them, hug them. If the parents can’t read, then Ms. Trent encourages them to flip the pages on picture books and talk about what they see.

Laboring class mothers do not need to be told to do this shit. Most of them would genuinely like to be able to. And I am completely fucking disgusted that their response to learning that grown woman can't read isn't "Here, let's get you into a completely free night class with completely free day-care so that you can learn how to read, because this is an absolutely vital skill for pulling yourself and your children out of poverty," it's "Oh, well you're a lost cause but here is how you can prevent your poverty-disease from spreading to your children."

“I just want him to go to school,” she said of Landon. “I want him to go to college and get out of this place.”

This isn't unusual, though. This is what most laboring class people want from their children. Even if they've never exactly imagined college specifically as part of the equation (it's easy for that to become something that feels remote—something your family would never be able to afford even if you were good enough—but I can't recall meeting a laboring class parent that didn't want better for their children.
bowtomecha 10th-Dec-2012 12:38 pm (UTC)
8 out of 10 have air-conditioning, and a majority have a washing machine and dryer. Nearly all have microwave ovens.


These aren't exactly luxury items. I'm sure plenty do a rent to own where its not too expensive monthly but takes forever to pay off. Most people with electricity have microwave ovens. Cheap boxed foods can be readily cooked in one and the ovens brand new can be $50 and half that for used. They are energy and cost efficient. I would say that they are necessary items, more than conventional stoves/ovens. An air conditioner might seem like a luxury item again but it really isn't. If this article said 42" HDTVs and HD cable then okay lets stretch it. But its not the appliances so much as the costly services that are true luxuries.
booksforlunch 10th-Dec-2012 01:10 pm (UTC)
This.

There is this weird divide between how people in rich industry states like the US or Germany imagine what poverty looks like and how it actually looks like.

When they hear someone is poor they demand to see someone who lives and starves like someone in the slums of the poorest developing countries. When instead they need to expect someone that falls under the definition of someone who doesn't make enough to provide the very basic necessities - food, shelter and the chance to preserve your livelihood (see the broken car from article for example) - in our countries.

Yes, apart from the homeless, poor people very well can own a microwave oven. We live after all in a country that either produces them, or imports them cheaply from, say, China. Plus our rampant consumer culture that means that someone, somewhere IS throwing away a perfectly working thing (for you to get used) to replace it with the newest, shiniest version. Not to mention that if you became poor recently, you might have bought them when times WEREN'T tight.
Having a cell phone, internet or kitchen appliances doesn't mean you don't go hungry.



This reminds me of a while back here in Germany when it made the news that the price of basic foods had risen yet again. Basically in the same breath it was declared that, hey, gadgets and appliances were really "cheap" right then.
Wow something positive! :D

Until you used your brain. I mean, I guess it's good for people that they can get a new toaster relatively cheap after eating the old one due to lacking the means to get bread to toast it with.
intrikate88 10th-Dec-2012 02:22 pm (UTC)
On the bright side, this article isn't so focused on those money-grubbing leeches bleeding the system dry or whatever term is popular this week.

On the other hand, okay I know not every parent is perfect, but WHEN YOU LITERALLY FACE A CHOICE BETWEEN EATING THAT MONTH AND SUPPORTING YOUR CHILD IN LEARNING TO READ, TAKING ADVANTAGE OF A CHECK IS NOT THE PROBLEM, HAVING TO MAKE THAT CHOICE IN THE FIRST PLACE IS THE MOTHERFUCKING PROBLEM.
kynical 10th-Dec-2012 03:02 pm (UTC)
THIS. These are symptoms of a fundamentally flawed and broken system. That parents have to make these decisions is a symptom not because they are "lazy" (insert whatever myth is currently popular).
teacup_werewolf 10th-Dec-2012 02:35 pm (UTC)
I had to go to bed last night before I can comment, but gee; I bet the author has a nice warm bed to go to, and clean water and fresh food. A nice warm house too. I would wager that this author has never lived through the kind of poverty that the Appalachians go through. Or poverty at all.

It never fails to surprise me how these articles sound like the fable of the Pig and the Sheep. Pig is off to slaughter shrieking as he is being dragged away by the farmer while the sheep from the pasture laughs at him and says he is being a coward. The Pig shouts at the Sheep that she is goes to the market to get her fleece sheared while he goes for his meat.

The lesson is that it's easy to be brave or critical when there is no danger. So it goes with the author to be the patronizing sheep. He feels that with his education and position that he can make such judgements on these people and do so without remorse or irony. While knowing too damn well that he will never walk in their shoes and know what hunger, cold or to be desperate is. And yet he will still judge and patronize these people. In my eyes it's a rehashing of the same- "Look at those dumb hilljacks, cheating off the system." diatribe you hear all the time.

Folks like them need to shut up about the poor, IDC about your erudite opinions on poverty. If you are so educated and wise o' author, why can't you see it isn't her fault, but the way the system is stacked against her? As Squeeful said, the society is broke.


apparently I have a lot of feels on this...must because I am in a F-ed up situation too.
redstar826 10th-Dec-2012 03:03 pm (UTC)
hasn't Nick Kristof said some questionable shit in the past, or am I confusing him with a different NY Times writer?
recorded 10th-Dec-2012 07:46 pm (UTC)
I thought he was the token forbes liberal writer, but I think I'm mistaken and you're right that he's a NY times guy. I remember him writing some pretty good articles before though about human rights things. He co-wrote the book Half the Sky with his wife.
bestdaywelived 10th-Dec-2012 03:37 pm (UTC)
This was a well-written article covering something that, let's be honest, no middle-class liberal wants to talk about.

I grew up in an area like this - not Appalachia, but a lower-income, poor place where poor people sometimes didn't get married and lied to the state about their living situation to keep funds coming, and where parents would push for a certain dx for their kid for SSI money (or doctors would sign someone off as disabled who really wasn't, so they could get funds).

Middle-class people don't want to admit this because all of the things that the right says are wrong with The System are being exploited, in some ways.

If the goal is to support people so they can support themselves, we're not doing that well enough if kids aren't being properly educated and if people aren't able to break out of the cycle of intergenerational poverty.

A good place to start would be a literacy program for the ADULTS, so they can help their kids. A second place would be making sure everyone has a safe place to live and food stamps, so they aren't going hungry.


Edited at 2012-12-10 03:46 pm (UTC)
luminescnece 10th-Dec-2012 04:53 pm (UTC)
The way we support the poor, as if they only get it because of their children and as soon as the children are gone they can die in a hole for all North America cares... is the problem.

I see abuse of the system all the time. The more I got into and around people 'on the system' (disability, Canada) the more I saw examples of people not doing what they're supposed to do according to the rules of disability.

But then I realized that the rules we put on these programs beg people to break them. In addition to the rules being onerous and stupid (Until rules changed here, you basically couldn't work more than part time at a job that paid you more than minimum wage). Because rules about disability aren't about how much you are able to work or unable to work. They're about how much money you're making. Except that a lot of the jobs that will properly accommodate a person with a disability don't pay minimum wage and the jobs paying minimum wage that will are few and far between. Meaning that people on disability MIGHT be able to get great jobs that will accommodate them and maybe even facilitate them getting off disability partially or fully.

But that doesn't exactly happen very much because people get those jobs because as soon as they have them, their disability will get cut off. It can be onerously difficult to get back ON disability if you've gone off for any reason even if you lost the job which was the reason you went off in the first place.

In Canada, disability is one of the better public support systems. More support and less judgement than welfare and STILL I know people who leave the disability office in tears every time because they're treated so poorly in there.

The rules are designed to keep people from 'getting ahead' illicitly, as if because they get ahead with the help of a government program for their disability that's the end of the world. Can't have people temporarily profiting off the system and getting off it. Clearly we must have a system that requires so much energy to stay on it (and live within it) that you can't even think of having a job.

Yes. Our social programs do trap people into dependency. Anyone that says otherwise isn't looking and doesn't care. No matter what their reasons for saying otherwise.

But the problem here is not with the people within the system... the problem is with the system.

But we really have to be mindful of the ways we try to change the system. What will work in a perfect world won't necessarily work in our broken twisted mess. Employers are basically absolved of meeting the needs of people with disabilities because of the presence of a system that will prevent 'the disabled' from dying in the streets because no one will employ them. Because our society does not expect flexibility from employers, that is reserved for employees.

We have a population of people who the system has trained to live off the system. It is a skill because information about the ways the system can take care of you are not widely available. People have special 'ins' and 'outs' to make ends meet and get the system to take care of what it is actually supposed to be doing. People who are trained to deal with a system that is totally unreasonable and trained to expect a system that is not only totally unreasonable but completely dismissive of them. A better system in which people are actually taken care of couldn't operate that way, and it would have a hard time operating with people who are systematically become used to degradation.

We have a system where people are 'rewarded' for becoming more disabled because things become 'easier' for them as their life gets worse with their disability. But that is the fucking problem. We only give out more when something of equal or greater worth is removed from a plate that will never ever ever be full.

And then we expect them to be grateful. The system just doesn't work because almost everyone in our society has a hard time getting by. If we make things better for everyone we can actually have systems that will temporarily or properly bring people up to 'standard' but by the numbers... the only standard our society has is rampant poverty.
pepsquad 10th-Dec-2012 04:15 pm (UTC)
as a sped teacher who works closely with diags i'm goign to say that kids being diagnosed ID because of literacy issues means that the diag isn't doing their job.
darlahood 10th-Dec-2012 06:10 pm (UTC)
When I first glanced this I thought you said the diag isn't LOSING their job.

Whoa. Either way, right?
violetrose 10th-Dec-2012 06:39 pm (UTC)
Ew at middle/upper-class people and their ~enlightened opinions on welfare and poverty.

If the parents can’t read, then Ms. Trent encourages them to flip the pages on picture books and talk about what they see.

Because obviously it's just too much to actually teach the parents to read. I mean really, once you hit eighteen, then who gives a fuck about you? Yes, children matter and giving them an education and opportunities does a lot to prevent generational poverty - but so does helping the parents.

And I am done with the stereotype of poor mothers saying that they don't love or want the best for their children as much as wealthier mothers. It's bullshit.
poetic_pixie_13 10th-Dec-2012 07:12 pm (UTC)
At a time when CEOs are getting millions on bonuses after they had to be bailed out I'm not really too concerned about people 'gaming' the system to feed their children, Jesus fuck. The system is broken, not because the safety net causes people to be dependant, but because the system creates a cycle that is almost impossible to get out of. You can either honestly face the root cause of this poverty or you can put a band aid on it and blame the poor when it only treats (barely any of) the symptoms and not the disease itself.
maynardsong 10th-Dec-2012 07:22 pm (UTC)
MTE
recorded 10th-Dec-2012 07:27 pm (UTC)
I'm going into early childhood precisely because I want to help kids in situations like this.
It will be really harrowing with kids yo-yoing in and out of the program because of things like unreliable child support payments or single parents getting social program support pulled out from under them.

Our programs ARE problematic, LBR. They're problematic largely because there is this cut off point for "you appear to be getting back on your feet -- NOW U GET NOTHING" and that's just not how it should be. They should foster success and phase out, not pull the rug out from under you just because you now work 25 hours instead of 20. It just shows that there is not enough money in the programs to go around, they really need more funding so people don't get waitlisted, forcing others who start to do better to be kicked off.


EDIT: Found a counter-piece by the Center for Economic & Policy research.

Edited at 2012-12-10 07:54 pm (UTC)
moonshaz 10th-Dec-2012 11:02 pm (UTC)
Thanks for this link. I look forward to reading it.
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