In our experience, we at Children Incorporated have seen that urban poverty entails many of the same challenges that rural poverty does, including transportation barriers and shortages of affordable housing. There are some difficulties which are specific to families living in urban environments, however – problems that we are currently addressing in the following cities: Washington, D.C.; Richmond, Virginia; Detroit, Michigan; and New Orleans, Louisiana. These challenges include concentrated poverty and crime, inadequate public transportation, and de facto segregation.

Understanding concentrated poverty

Concentrated poverty, such as the circumstance of public housing projects, has been found to only worsen the situations of low-income families. Residents in such communities face underfunded schools, higher crime rates, substandard housing, and poorer health outcomes. The effects are particularly hard on children, who attempt to cope with the high levels of stress that they experience as a result of their families’ economic situation. According to a study by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, two-thirds of children living in poverty reside in cities.

Crime is a problem that has a greater impact on families who live in concentrated poverty, as crime is more frequent in cities than in the suburbs or in rural areas. A lack of quality affordable housing is also a serious problem. For families who are not accepted into subsidized housing, rent consumes a large percentage of their limited resources, which leaves little for their children’s needs. Transportation challenges have become critical, as every major metropolitan area has lost jobs to the suburbs. These difficulties hinder parents and guardians’ abilities to connect with opportunities and jobs.

How we help children living in poverty

Children Incorporated understands that these problems are complex and interconnected. Our efforts to have a positive impact on urban poverty are currently focused in two areas – our sponsorship program and our Hope In Action Fund. Our sponsorship program assists children with their basic, health-related, and educational needs. This assistance provides them with weather-appropriate school clothing, classroom supplies, hygiene items, and other necessities, as determined by our volunteer coordinators at each of our affiliated schools in our Inner City Division across the United States. We often hear that when sponsored children know they have a sponsor who cares about them, they are encouraged – and that is powerful.

We often hear that when sponsored children know they have a sponsor who cares about them, they are encouraged – and that is powerful.

Our Hope In Action Fund assists with larger-scale needs that fall beyond the scope of our sponsorship program. This fund facilitates three areas of focus in our Inner City Division in particular:

1. Food insecurity – Many poor urban communities are “food deserts,” lacking full-service grocery stores with fresh fruits and vegetables. Instead, there are only corner convenience shops and mini-marts with more junk food than nutritious food. For families that lack transportation, healthy sustenance is difficult to obtain. Noting this need, several schools have begun to host monthly markets, have initiated weekend feeding programs, or have spearheaded school gardening programs. Children Incorporated has supported these efforts.

2. After-school remediation and enrichment – Children Incorporated has supported after-school programs that offer remedial instruction in reading and math, as well as enrichment activities in the arts and sciences.

3. Parent and guardian engagement and involvement – Many schools struggle with parent and guardian attendance for conferences with teachers, assemblies, Parent-Teacher Association meetings, and other activities. Many parents may have had negative experiences with schools during their own childhoods, and others have complained that the only time they hear from the schools is if there is a problem with their children’s attendance, behavior, or grades. Studies have shown parent and guardian engagement to be a key factor in positive outcomes for children. Several of the schools with which we affiliate have designed special nights to encourage parents and guardians to go to schools for wholesome events that encourage family bonding. Children Incorporated has helped with several of these important efforts.

There are many challenges to address, but we at Children Incorporated are doing our best to tackle them, thanks to the support of our sponsors and donors, who are making a profound difference in the lives of the children we serve.

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HOW DO I SPONSOR A CHILD IN CHILDREN INCORPORATED’S INNER CITY DIVISON?

You can sponsor a child in our Inner City Division 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.