Poverty is not something most Americans like to talk about. We’d rather roll up the car windows or walk on by. But poverty is real. It’s in our cities, it’s on our streets and it’s looking straight at us. But what isn’t so obvious, is the connection between poverty and child abuse. According to the Third National Incidence Study of Child Abuse and Neglect, abuse is 14 times more common in poor families — and neglect is 44 times more common. But the reasons why these numbers are so high aren’t always easy to explain.
When parents don’t have enough money to provide for their families, they do whatever it takes to survive. However, this added burden could lead to changes in parental mental health, caregiving behaviors or family dynamics that put kids at risk for neglect and abuse. But a little extra support can go a long way. In fact, a University of Wisconsin-Madison study found that mothers who received more child support income were less likely to be reported for child abuse.
The Problem with Neglect
Among all types of child abuse, neglect represents 75% of all reported cases in the U.S. But are all of these cases legitimate, or have we been mistaking poverty for neglect?
Florida law defines neglect as occurring when “a child is deprived of, or is allowed to be deprived of, necessary food, clothing, shelter, or medical treatment.” Ironically, for poor families, this is the very definition of poverty itself. And while the law attempts to explain the difference between poverty (can’t provide due to financial reasons) and neglect (can provide, but won’t), mistakes in judgment are not uncommon.
Keeping Families Together
There are countless stories of children being taken away from their caregivers because poverty made it impossible to provide adequate housing or care. While every case is different, most families just need a little extra support to stay together.
Help us provide the basic necessities to victims of poverty and child abuse.