What is it Like Growing Up Poor in America?

The New York Times Shines Light on Childhood Poverty in America

In an article published on Dec. 7, 2012, Nicholas Kristof, an esteemed columnist for the New York Times, brings much-needed attention to the poverty epidemic that has swept across our nation and threatens to keep nearly a quarter of our children trapped in its claws for generations.

Because kids don’t have a political voice, they have been neglected — and have replaced the elderly as the most impoverished age group in our country. Today, 22 percent of children live below the poverty line.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. As Kristof pointed out, the key to breaking the cycle of poverty is educating our children early on. Kristof went on to say:

Yet there are ways of breaking this cycle. That’s what Save the Children is doing here, working with children while they’re still malleable, and it’s an approach that should be a centerpiece of America’s antipoverty program. Almost anytime the question is poverty, the answer is children.

For Reno, life is anything but normal for a child growing up in America.

Boys like Reno are why we're dedicated to helping children in need. We work in poor and vulnerable communities in countries from America to Zimbabwe — saving one child at a time. Our caring staff helps provide lifesaving care for newborns, feed hungry children, educate girls and boys, fight child trafficking and respond to catastrophic disasters worldwide. Sadly, we know firsthand that there are far too many children who aren't getting the help they need. And that's where YOU come in. Without compassionate people like you, children like Reno go without. And we can't help them...without you! 

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Meet Reno and Find Out How Save the Children is Helping Him Break the Cycle of Poverty

On the outside, Reno looks like any other 7-year old little boy. He's active, plays with action-figures and other toys, and has imaginary battles with unseen foes in the nearby woods.

But Reno is one of the nearly one-in-four children living in poverty in the United States. His parents barely squeak by on an income far below the poverty line. For Reno, life is anything but normal for a child growing up in America.

Reno's mother and father are both long-term unemployed. His mother has a GED and his father has an 8th grade education. With such little education and few skills, his parents find odd jobs here and there scraping enough money to pay for used clothing and basic food. Electricity is a luxury; Reno has had many dark nights when they couldn't afford to keep the lights on. With no phone and no car, it's like the family was sent back in a time machine and got stranded in the Great Depression.

Bills tend to pile up due to his parents' health problems. His father had heart surgery about a month ago. He now has a pacemaker and is doing better, but he needs expensive check-ups regularly to make sure it's working right. His mother also struggles with ongoing health problems.

Reno lives in a broken-down mobile home his father found in a garbage dump about one year ago. There's no running water. Even though the mobile home heats up like an oven, they only have a fan. With their frequent power shut offs, sometimes they have no way to keep cool at all. For heat and cooking, the family uses an old wood stove. The stove belches out thick smoke routed by a stovepipe running out the living room window. Because money is tight, they feed themselves by hunting wild game, such as deer, squirrel and possum, and growing meager vegetables.

To reach Reno's home, you drive up a narrow dirt road past a dumping ground. At first, the road appears to be driveway leading to nowhere. However, once you go up the road you can see their mobile home sitting on a hill.

Every morning, Reno leaves his home at 5am to get to school, which is about 12 miles away. Sometimes his grandfather gives him a ride or sometimes a neighbor helps out. But sometimes he has to walk. Twelve miles is a long walk for a little boy.

Reno loves his school and his bookwork. His parents try to help him with homework but, most of time they can't help him because they don't know how to do it. Despite not really understanding what Reno's learning in school, his education is a top priority and they want him to go to college. Reno's parents say his reading has gotten better as a result of Save the Children program and the teachers. The father said this school really cares about children.

Reno has made progress since he started Save the Children's programs. When he began, he was anxious to learn. He tried so hard to read, but struggled greatly. He now slows down and attempt to read unfamiliar words instead of skipping over them and guessing for fear of embarrassment. He's more self confident, but is going to continue to help him grow and learn – and declare freedom from poverty.

Read the full New York Times article