December 3, 2016
A recently released report awards Manitoba the dubious distinction of having Canada’s highest child poverty rate for the second year in a row. In his research, the University of Manitoba’s Sid Frankel showed that one in 3.5 children in Manitoba is living in poverty. That translates to 85,110 children in this province who are living with the daily realities of being poor.
A Winnipeg Harvest symposium last week provided an opportunity for several parents to put a human face to these statistics. Parents spoke about the daily struggle to put food on the table for their kids, including by visiting stretched-to-capacity food banks. One single mother described extra-curricular activities for her kids as completely prohibitive unless she could obtain charitable assistance for these activities. These stories are heartbreaking for me to read, as I’m sure they are for anyone with the slightest twinge of empathy.
The long-term consequences of child poverty are both numerous and well established, so much so that the American Psychological Association has compiled a veritable online library summarizing them. Two in particular are notable.
First, poverty robs kids of their homes and the security that often comes with them. While the prospect of kids living on the street or in homeless shelters is bad enough, homelessness has many long-term consequences for children. The instability of homelessness for kids means their schooling is often interrupted, and academic achievement suffers accordingly. Children who experience homelessness are, for example, twice as likely as other kids to have a learning disability and repeat a grade at school.