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Opening Doors for Children & Families

The Cost Of Poverty

I was surfing around good ol' Facebook when I came across something interesting. The Agenda with Steve Painkin shared the image seen here and commented: We want to know: What does poverty look like in your community? I studied the chart, looking through the details several times. Working with families living in poverty for the past 7 years I can't say this was particularly surprising.

"Poverty affects 3 million Canadians, 1 in 5 of those being children."

Before I started working at ABC Head Start I don't think I really realized the impact of poverty in the community. I also didn't realize how low Low Income Cut Off (LICO) really is. LICO is determined by Statistics Canada and I was shocked to see the numbers, and to be honest my first thought was 'How does someone live on this, let alone raise a child(ren) on this income?'

ABC Head Start uses LICO and further adjusts the cut-offs by adding the Alberta Consumer Price Index (CPI). This is a qualification requirement of ABC Head Start, all families who attend the program living on limited income A.K.A living in poverty. That means families receive a preschool program for the child, including transportation, as well as family support, at no cost. The debates rages on whether Head Start programs should remain serving low-income families or if ALL children should have preschool programs at no cost.

Of course all children should have access to quality preschool programming. As I quoted in a previous blog posted titled Occupy, Nicholas Kristof stated, "The single step that would do the most to reduce inequality has nothing to do with finance at all. It’s an expansion of early childhood education." However until our community members recognize that people living in poverty experience 10 times the barriers of people who are not living in poverty I'm not sure universality of Head Start programs, or not targeting these families, is the answer. Most often when programs are made "universal," meaning there is a cookie cutter model of service for everyone, the people who are most disadvantaged suffer the most and their voices silenced. In my experience working with families living on low-income the service becomes watered down and then fails to serve the population best.

And why should community members care? Poverty impacts everyone, from greater demands on the health care and criminal justice systems, to diminished workplace and economic productivity (Canada Without Poverty.) CWP also states "Poverty is not only detrimental to the health of Canadians, but has a huge price tag on the health care system. Evidence shows that Canada would save $7.6 billion per year on health expenditures, by merely moving people from the lowest incomes bracket to the second lowest income bracket." A pretty convincing argument of the high social cost of poverty.

"The cost of poverty – in health care, criminal justice, social services, lost productivity, lost opportunity – is a cost we cannot afford any longer.” Tony Martin, former MP

With the support of volunteers, ABC Head Start Society is able to support vulnerable children and families throughout the year. Volunteers contribute by sharing their ideas, talents and energy to events, on our Board of Directors and fundraisers, and in providing direct support to children, parents/caregivers and families.