Time to end child poverty

U.S. rates ‘a national disgrace’

“This poor one cried out and the Lord heard, and from all his distress he saved him” (Ps 34:7).

Throughout human history, God has reminded us that concern for the poor is a basic tenet of our faith. After Jesus’ death and resurrection, the apostles — guided by the Holy Spirit — appointed seven disciples (the first deacons) to care for the poor (Acts 6:2).

If concern for the poor and hungry plays such a vital role in the Lord’s plan, imagine God’s attentiveness to children in poverty. Our duty to do all we can for the least and youngest among us should rattle us out of complacency.

Child poverty is a global concern and, despite the United States’ economic status in the world, we have one of the highest child poverty rates among developed nations.

The Children’s Defense Fund (childrensdefense.org) recently released its 2017 “State of America’s Children” report. It showed that poverty impacts children more than adults. “It is a national disgrace that children are the poorest Americans,” according to the report.

The CDF report offers these stark figures.

  • Nearly one in five children — more than 13.2 million — is poor.
  • More than 1.2 million public schoolchildren are homeless, excluding younger children not enrolled in school.
  • Nearly one in five children lives in “food insecure” households.
  • Approximately 3.9 million children lack health coverage.

The U.S. Census Bureau released data last fall which offered child poverty statistics by state. The child poverty rate in Wisconsin in 2016 was 15.7 percent, down from 16.4 percent in 2015. Nationally, Wisconsin ranks in the top 20 for states with the lowest child poverty rate.

In an effort to end child poverty in Wisconsin, a coalition of faith-based and anti-poverty groups announced a campaign in December, “End Child Poverty Wisconsin.”

“The campaign seeks to inspire Wisconsin to set a goal of eliminating child poverty, by holding itself accountable for reducing both child poverty and racial disparities,” the coalition stated on its website, endchildpovertywi.org.

Catholics in the Diocese of Green Bay are promoting this initiative, according to Lou Blasczyk, a member of St. Bernard Parish in Appleton. He is also a member of ESTHER, an interfaith social justice organization in the Fox Valley actively supporting the campaign to end child poverty.

“The people of Wisconsin need to set a goal of cutting childhood poverty in half in the next 10 years,” the coalition stated. “As leaders of Wisconsin’s faith communities, we commit ourselves to this goal.”

It also seeks to cut in half racial disparities in childhood poverty.

Local Catholics may join the campaign by signing an online petition, endchildpovertywi.org/endorse. Its goal is to have 10,000 people endorse the campaign.

Parish social concerns committees and other church organizations can support the End Child Poverty Wisconsin campaign and help promote the coalition’s objective. Contact state lawmakers and encourage them to implement policies that cut child poverty and racial disparities in half in 10 years.

If the Lord hears the cry of the poor, we most certainly ought to as well.

Poverty, according to Nelson Mandela, is not an accident. “Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings.”