Tag Archives: poverty

Connecting Kids with Resources They Need

* Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.

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Parents who are raising kids while living in poverty often don’t have much time to participate in their children’s lives like other parents might. Instead of driving them to piano practice or to the soccer field, parents who struggle to make ends meet are working long hours or multiple jobs — or trying to find resources in their free time to provide food and clothing for their families.

“One-hundred-percent of students at our affiliated project, Lucy Ellen Moten Elementary School in Washington, D.C., come from economically disadvantaged homes,” explains our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“One-hundred-percent of students at our affiliated project, Lucy Ellen Moten Elementary School in Washington, D.C., come from economically disadvantaged homes,” explains our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“It is nearly impossible for parents to get involved in school activities for their kids, but thankfully, the school focuses on not only academic development but arts-integrated instruction and social and emotional development as well.”

Introducing Connected Schools

Located in the Fort Stanton neighborhood of Ward 8, Moten Elementary School serves 323 students from PK3 and PK4 (pre-kindergarten for three-and-four-year-olds) through fifth grade. The children benefit from having a Literacy Lab, a Young Playwrights program, art, music, choir, and a mentorship program with the Washington Ballet. Despite all these excellent programs, more help and support are needed for kids because they struggle to meet D.C. standardized tests’ guidelines. Just 38% meet math benchmarks, and only 50% meet English benchmarks.

“This is one of the reasons D.C. Public Schools chose Moten Elementary School as one of the 10 D.C. Connected Schools,” said Renée.

Our volunteer coordinator, Jamarl, works hard to ensure the needs of our sponsored children our met.

“According to the District of Colombia Public Schools website, Connected Schools works to ‘accelerate outcomes for our students [in] 10 schools across the city [that] will become resource hubs in their community to meet our students’ and families’ needs in and out of the classroom. Connected Schools take a whole child, whole school, whole community approach by making schools spaces that support not only a student’s academic development, but a family’s overall wellbeing through access to resources related to health, employment, housing, and more. This model builds on the full-service community school model and is grounded in national research and educational best practices.’”

 “Our Volunteer Coordinator, Jamarl, at Moten, also works as a Connected Schools Manager. The program is geared towards getting more kids into case management, and they are working hard on parent and community engagement and involvement as well,” explained Renée.

Meeting with Jamarl

“I met with Jamarl over a FaceTime appointment. We had a great virtual meeting. I asked him about his students’ ongoing needs. He explained that uniforms are optional in D.C., although virtually all the schools have chosen to use them. However, Moten’s new principal has eliminated the requirement, and so what Jamarl could previously order in bulk, simply by gender and size, is an entirely different matter now. He said the kids are wearing the same few outfits day after day, to school and at home, and on weekends. They are getting a greater amount of wear and tear. He could always use extra funds for clothes. He would especially like to have spare socks and underwear for those PreK and kindergarten accidents. He could also use extra funds for school supplies.”

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How do I sponsor a child in Washington, D.C.?

You can sponsor a child in Washington, D.C. in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Washington D.C. that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

The Challenges of Home Life

* Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.

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Nestled in the picturesque Appalachian Mountains and steeped in a rich cultural heritage lies Wolfe County, Kentucky.

As is the case for many areas of Appalachia, Wolfe County’s natural beauty belies the abject poverty in which many of its residents live. Wolfe County carries the unfortunate distinction of being one of Kentucky’s most impoverished regions.

As is the case for many areas of Appalachia, Wolfe County’s natural beauty belies the abject poverty in which many of its residents live.

At one time, logging, tourism for nearby mineral springs, and factories employed the majority of this area’s residents. Over time, these industries vanished, leaving ghost towns, unemployment, and high poverty rates in their wake. High dropout rates and adult illiteracy only serve to fuel the cycle of poverty.

“Today, leaders and residents in Wolfe County are working hard to reimagine new opportunities to rebuild the local economy,” explains our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“One area being explored is tourism. Wolfe County is home to the outstanding Red River Gorge, a canyon system in the Red River. The gorge lies within the Daniel Boone National Forest, and it has been designated a National Historic Landmark and a National Archeological District. There are many high sandstone cliffs, rock shelters, waterfalls, and natural bridges. There is a gorge that is a popular place for rock climbers. A few small businesses have sprung up to support tourists, ranging from those selling supplies to an outstanding pizza restaurant.”

A long way to go

Regardless of the efforts, the county still has a long way to go for real economic development. Since the collapse of the coal industry, many of its families struggle with poverty, hopelessness, and addiction. Sadly, as always, the children are the most vulnerable — including those at our affiliated projects, Wolfe County Middle School and High Schools.

Per the Annie E. Casey Kids Count Data Center, the county’s average child poverty rate for 2014-2018 was 38%. From 2012 to 2016, it was a wretched 55%. The improvement is not because of the county’s ability to address poverty, but because so many families have moved out in hopes of better opportunities.

Working to support kids in need

Fortunately, the Family Resource Youth Services Center at Wolfe County Middle and High Schools can help children and their families to succeed in school by minimizing or removing non-cognitive barriers to their learning.

Kids in Wolfe County are fortunate to have a volunteer coordinator like Connie to look out for their well-being.

The resource center’s offerings range from Born Learning (for infants and preschoolers) to Back to School Bashes and Ready Fests, to Red Ribbon Week (drug awareness and prevention), to recognizing and responding to violence, and to bringing partners and resources to address the children’s well-being and success.

Children Incorporated is proud to be able to partner with the Family Resource Center in Wolfe County Middle and High School. It is in these places that we hope to help children develop resilience, to graduate from high school, and eventually to break the cycle of poverty by having work that will support themselves and their own families someday,” said Renée.

Getting to meet with Connie

Wolfe County Middle and High School are side-by-side schools, and the Youth Services Centers are both run by our volunteer coordinator, Connie. The total enrollment at the middle and high school is about 600 students. Children Incorporated U.S. Programs Specialist, Shelley Oxenham, visited with Connie recently to find out more how our program is supporting her work.

“I met with Connie at the high school during my last visit to Wolfe County. Connie says she likes our sponsorship program because it helps her kids with clothing, which is very important to middle and high school kids,” expressed Shelley.

“She takes her high school students on a bus to Lexington to shop at Kohls, where the kids can pick out clothes and shoes.  She says it’s an enjoyable experience for them, and she is grateful that she can be so flexible with the program.”

Connie also told Shelley that transportation is a significant barrier for her students; many of them rely on the school bus system to get to and from school. Because of this, these students are unable to participate in any after-school programs, tutoring programs, or extracurricular activities because they do not have a way to get home.

Beyond transportation concerns, the biggest challenge for students at the middle and high school is the home life.

Fortunately, the school has been awarded a grant for the 21st Century after-school program, and part of the grant money will be put towards bus transportation for the students. Per the 21st Century website: “21st Century Community Learning Centers provide essential support to students who are often underserved and offer creative, engaging learning opportunities to kids of all ages and backgrounds.”

An even bigger concern

Beyond transportation concerns, the biggest challenge for students at the middle and high school is the home life. They come to school, and their minds are elsewhere because they are worried about where they will sleep from day to day or worrying about mom or dad being on drugs.

Often there is not enough food in the house, and they come to school hungry and tired after the weekend. Many of the students are living with grandparents or other relatives. A growing number of students are moving into the area because they are in foster care.

These students have grown up in volatile environments and bring a lot of challenges with them to school each day. Often these students act out in school, which can be difficult for the teachers and other students.

Even with all the issues these children face, the high school’s graduation rate is very high, and that is thanks to a dedicated and caring staff and administration at the high school.

If a student is failing several classes, they can take online courses or attend one on one classes at an extension campus to graduate.

“Connie is hoping that with the new after-school program, the graduation rate will be even better. After graduation, some students will attend college while others attend technical college or transition to work,” said Shelley.

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How do I sponsor a child in Kentucky?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

SPONSOR A CHILD

No Place for Homeless Kids in D.C.

* Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.

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It’s difficult to comprehend that children can continue to go to school when they don’t have a home — but for some students at John Hayden Johnson Middle School in Washington, D.C., they don’t have an option.

We hear from Children Incorporated Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, about how homeless children in our nation’s capital manage to stay in school and how administrators at Johnson Middle are supporting them.

We hear from Children Incorporated Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, about how homeless children in our nation’s capital manage to stay in school and how administrators at Johnson Middle are supporting them.

A newer affiliation

“Johnson Middle is one of our newer affiliated projects in Washington, D.C,” explained Renée.

“The school is located in the Douglass neighborhood of Ward 8. It is adjacent to the old, historic St. Elizabeth’s Psychiatric Hospital, which opened in 1855 as the first federally operated psychiatric hospital in the United States. The back of the school grounds borders the hospital’s east and west cemeteries.”

“The school serves 275 children in grades sixth through eighth. The make-up of the student body is 97% black and 3% Hispanic/Latino. Sixty-two percent of students come from within the district’s boundary — and every student at the school is considered economically disadvantaged,” said Renée.

Meeting Jason

“Our Volunteer Coordinator at the school is Jason. It has taken him a while to build rapport and trust with his parents, but he is obviously a very caring person and wants to make a difference.”

John Hayden Johnson Middle School supports kids who are struggling as homeless teens.

While visiting with him, Jason told me that the school has a large percentage of homeless families, mostly single mothers, and their children. The shelters in Washington, D.C. will often get too full and overcrowded, and most are not safe places for children as they offer little protection,” said Renée.

“Jason continued to explain that Washington D.C. City Council has established a program for homeless women and children where the family is put into a motel room, and the city pays the motel rates. The children ride the city buses free to their schools so that they can continue to go instead of dropping out due to a lack of transportation. He said almost all of the kids he has put on our program are homeless.”

A need for enrichment for kids

“Before we concluded our meeting, I asked Jason how Children Incorporated could further help him in his efforts to support homeless children at his school,” said Renée.

“Jason said his biggest needs as a coordinator are food, especially nutritious snacks, hygiene kits, and good old fashioned “play clothes,” which will keep the students’ uniforms in better shape for a more extended period of time. He told me that many kids are wearing their uniforms when they get home in the evenings and on the weekends because that’s all they have.”

“Finally, Jason informed me that he wished for a way to provide enrichment outside of the neighborhood for kids. Ward 8 is lacking in anything cultural for the children to enjoy after school,” said Renée.

“Jason dreams of taking his students into Ward 2, which can be seen from the hills near the school grounds. Ward 2 has the National Mall, the White House, the monuments, and the museums.  It’s what tourists experience, but not what his students have ever seen in person. He feels that it is incredibly important for kids living in D.C. to get to experience all that the city has to offer by taking them on field trips that will show them a world that exists outside of their impoverished neighborhood.”

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How do I sponsor a child in Washington, D.C.? 

You can sponsor a child in Washington, D.C. in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Washington, D.C. that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD

High Rents in Jackson City

* Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.

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Jackson City is located in rural and mountainous Breathitt County, Kentucky. Until the 1990s, coal was the foundation of the county’s economy, but the steady decline of the coal mining industry has begun to wreak havoc upon the local economy.

Many families, who once depended upon the mines for income, now depend upon part-time employment at minimum wages, welfare, and food stamps. Poverty and unemployment have become intrinsic parts of daily life in Jackson City — which is exacerbated by the high cost of rent.

The school on the hill

Our affiliated project, Jackson City School, is nicknamed by residents “the school on the hill.” It is indeed perched atop a very tall hill behind the county courthouse. From the school grounds, there is a view over the rooftops of the little city below, as well as the rolling hills and mountains over the horizon.

Our volunteer coordinator, Dixie, has a lot of experience working with children in need.

While visiting Jackson City School, our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube, met with our volunteer coordinator, Dixie.

“Dixie a is a real winner of a coordinator — the students at Jackson City School are lucky to have her. She came to Jackson City Schools after working at the former Sebastian Middle School in Breathitt County, so she arrived at the Family Resource Youth Services Center fully understanding our sponsorship program,” explained Renée.

“Dixie is energetic and warm. She has developed close relationships with her students and families.” 

Rent overburdened in America

During their meeting, Dixie told Renée that the Family Resource Center’s greatest needs are support for the Backpack Weekend Feeding Program and her Parent Program. The Parent Program offers parents help with issues like child development and abuse prevention strategies, such as working on methods to calm down, patience, and time outs.

“Dixie explained that, since Jackson is the county seat, its middle class and professional families tend to live here and to enroll their children in the city school system rather than in the county school system,” said Renée.

“We are so grateful for our sponsors, and Dixie, who fills a big gap for parents. Dixie works hard to find great discounts so she can maximize the items she can provide for children throughout the year.”

“At the same time, there are six low-income housing apartment communities in Jackson that offer a total of 134 affordable apartments. One hundred two of these do not provide direct rent assistance but remain affordable. Thirty-two are formal, income-based apartments. The need outpaces the demand. If a family moves to another county, then that apartment is quickly rented to a new family.”

In the United States, households who pay more than thirty percent of their gross income are considered to be “rent overburdened.” In Jackson, a household making less than $1,357 a month would be regarded as overburdened when renting an apartment at or above the median rent. Nearly thirty-seven percent of households who rent are overburdened in Jackson.

Dixie and our sponsors to the rescue

“For families of children in our sponsorship program, this means a disproportionate amount of their low income is required to pay for rent, leaving only a small percentage available for utilities, food, gas, auto maintenance, and repairs — as well as their growing children’s needs for new shoes, school supplies, and other needs,” said Renée.

“We are so grateful for our sponsors, and Dixie, who fills a big gap for parents. Dixie works hard to find great discounts so she can maximize the items she can provide for children throughout the year.”

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How do I sponsor a child in Kentucky?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Caring for a Generation of Students

* Note: This blog was written prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although much has changed regarding our sponsored children’s learning experience in the past months, our On the Road stories remain relevant in regards to our volunteer coordinator’s work and the impact of sponsorship on children in our program thanks to our sponsors. We are pleased to continue to share stories with you about our work.

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Marie Roberts Elementary School is located in the small community of Lost Creek, Kentucky, in Breathitt County.

In a part of the country where 48.3% of children are living in poverty, the Family Resource Center at the school, and our volunteer coordinator, Jackie, are able to offer children the critical support they need to survive in difficult circumstances.

“Jackie is the original coordinator who brought our sponsorship program to the school many years ago. She has been a loving and stable presence for easily a generation of students,” explained our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“With her students, Jackie is very warm, and they feel comforted and loved in her presence.”

Good news for children in need

While visiting with Jackie at Marie Roberts, Renée had a chance to hear more about how Jackie, and our sponsors, are helping some of the most vulnerable kids in Lost Creek.

“Jackie said her job is about removing as many barriers as she can to her students’ academic potential and well-being. The barriers are all related, in one way or another, to the high child poverty rate,” said Renée.

“Jackie shared with me information from studies that show when children grow up in impoverished households, they tend to have worse health than children in better economic situations. Their education is also negatively impacted. Poverty can even affect their income attainment into adulthood as well.”

An exterior photo of Marie Roberts Elementary School

But it wasn’t all bad news that Jackie had for Renée. During their meeting, they discussed the heartening news that recent research has supported the theory that positive sustained relationships with caring adults can buffer childhood trauma and the toxic stress they feel from growing up in a difficult environment.

“Not only are school staff like Jackie able to be that caring adult for children, so are Children Incorporated sponsor[s]. Having someone in their lives who cares for them and provides some financial support, but also some emotional support through correspondence – often over a period of years — is powerful,” said Renée.

Helping kids with their stress

Related to the trauma and stress many of the children endure, Jackie shared the school is now very fortunate to have two counselors from Mountain Comprehensive Care Centers which is part of the Kentucky Department for Behavioral Health, Developmental, and Intellectual Disabilities. They began working at Marie Roberts Elementary during the 2018-2019 School Year and have had a huge impact on the children. They provide assessment, counseling, and referrals in a convenient and familiar location — the school. This also helps with access barriers, as so many families lack reliable transportation.

Before she left, Renée and Jackie discussed the Family Resource Center’s needs, and right away Jackie said shoes.

“She explained that the kids grow so quickly, and shoes are so expensive. Many families can afford only the cheapest flip flops or slides from the Dollar Store, and Jackie is always looking for deals on name-brand, sturdy shoes,” said Renée.

“Thankfully, our sponsors and our Shoes and Socks Fund have also been able to provide funds for Jackie to purchase quality shoes for kids that will last.”

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How do I sponsor a child in Kentucky?

You can sponsor a child in Kentucky in one of two ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members or email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org.

SPONSOR A CHILD

Overcoming Difficulties in D.C.

Washington D.C. boasts some of the highest rents in the country and is home to many wealthy Americans. Yet, for many families, food security and affordable housing are constant issues. In areas where our affiliated project is located, there are often more convenience stores than grocery stores with healthy food items. In terms of housing, rent in D.C. tends to be higher than the national average. A family is considered rent overburdened when they pay more than 30% of their gross income on rent, and 46% of the households that rent are overburdened in Washington. For these reasons, support from Children Incorporated, and our sponsors, is crucial to children living in poverty.

Our partner in D.C.

In Washington, D.C., Children Incorporated is affiliated with an outstanding implementing partner, Communities In Schools (CIS).

“CIS is a national organization whose focus is building relationships that empower at-risk students to stay in school and become achievers, not just academically but also in life,” explains our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“CIS is a national organization whose focus is building relationships that empower at-risk students to stay in school and become achievers, not just academically but also in life,” explains our Director of U.S. Programs, Renée Kube.

“The Communities In School’s mission is complementary to our mission, and our collaboration has been a natural and successful fit. The CIS site coordinators around the United States serve as Children Incorporated’s volunteer coordinators.”

“Our coordinators in D.C. often tell me about how the support is greatly needed and valued by the students and administrators, and in fact, all of our programs — sponsorship, Hope In Action, and our Higher Education Fund — are making a difference in the lives of the children and their families in our nation’s capital,” said Renée.

“Starting in the 2019-2020 School Year, Communities In Schools of our Nation’s Capital has worked with D.C. Public Schools in an initiative called ‘Connected Schools.’ This is based on an effective program in Philadelphia. The goal is to accelerate better outcomes for students who are furthest from opportunities. Ten schools were identified to become Resource Hubs in their communities to meet the students’ and families’ needs both inside and outside the classroom.”

“There is better recognition by DCPS that academic success and student well-being do not happen in a vacuum. Students who are homeless and hungry will not spend much time studying their spelling words or times tables. This is obviously what Children Incorporated is all about, too, and our partnership is truly appreciated in this new, greater effort,” said Renée.

Visiting Cardozo

As a part of their yearly visits to meet with our volunteer coordinators, Renée, along with U.S. Sponsorship Specialist Shelley Oxenham, visited the Cardozo Education Campus — one of four of our affiliated projects in Washington D.C.

Monique show Renée and Shelley her supply closet where she keeps items for our sponsored children.

“We were warmly escorted to the school by the Communities In Schools Director of Programs & Data, Sully Washington. Sully told us how much she values the partnership with Children Incorporated, which has meant so much to the students,” said Renée.

“Cardozo is located in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Ward 1. The building is an old, historic high school building. It houses a regular 6th — 12th-grade school and a parallel International Academy for the large population of English language learners.”

“This school is the most diverse of our D.C. sites. Its 746 students are 51% Hispanic/Latino, 46% black, 2% Asian, and 1% white. A very high 44% are English language learners. A sobering 100% come from economically disadvantaged households. It’s also interesting that only 37% come from within the neighborhood. The other 63% come from outside the boundary,” explained Renée.

As they continued their meeting, Renée could tell that through Sully’s description of his work, the school’s officials were committed to helping the children in any way they could. Sully explained to Renée and Shelley that in addition to the International Academy, there is also a 9th Grade Academy to aid the transition to high school, and a STEM Academy. The school offers AP classes, a night school for credit recovery, Air Force JROTC, indoor and outdoor sports, and numerous arts and cultural clubs.

Meeting our coordinators

After their meeting, Sully introduced Shelley and Renee to the Communities in Schools Team, who all work together to support our sponsored children in D.C.: Monique, Diogenes, and Fabi.

“We had a great conversation with the CIS coordinators. They shared that a lot of the kids need help with their education. Nearby Howard University has provided tutors for after-school efforts. They also told us that the mix of students’ backgrounds has sometimes collided into misunderstandings, tensions, arguments, and fights. Due to this, Cardozo’s principal instituted a unity program called ‘One Cardozo,’ with a variety of activities and mediations to help. Our coordinators said things have gotten much better in this regard,” said Renée.

“For all of our sponsored children, homeless or not, Children Incorporated’s goal is to provide funds to help with materials and supplies that support their health, well-being, and education, so they stay in school, achieve their diplomas, and have hope for a brighter future,” said Renée.

“Monique, Dio, and Fabi shared that the students have many personal challenges that often mean their studies get put on the back burner. There is a high percentage of homeless students. They bounce from sleeping at shelters, to couch surfing at friends’ houses, to staying for a night here and there with a relative. Some have slept in cars for weeks at a time. Some are with a parent, and some, sadly, are all by themselves. It is hard for them to keep up with their clothes and meager personal possessions, which they must usually store in trash bags. They cannot leave these items behind at the shelter.”

For all of our sponsored children, homeless or not, Children Incorporated’s goal is to provide funds to help with materials and supplies that support their health, well-being, and education, so they stay in school, achieve their diplomas, and have hope for a brighter future,” said Renée.

“Sponsorship and Hope In Action Program funds that our organization provides goes towards providing food, hygiene supplies, air mattresses and bedding, and laundry detergent. The kids are very embarrassed when their uniforms are no longer clean, and the laundry aid helps them feel neat and proud of their appearance and supports their regular attendance in school.”

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How do I sponsor a child in Washington, D.C.? 

You can sponsor a child in Washington, D.C. in one of three ways: call our office at 1-800-538-5381 and speak with one of our staff members; email us at sponsorship@children-inc.org; or go online to our sponsorship portal, create an account, and search for a child in Washington D.C. that is available for sponsorship.

SPONSOR A CHILD