Poverty and Abuse Among Children
By AJ Jordan
Many people believe that a child living in poverty or abuse only happens abroad, when in fact, it is extremely prevalent in the United States. Children all over the US live in poverty. Child abuse and oppression can happen right next door to us. We can only make a difference if we first educate ourselves on the issue and then get involved.
Poverty and Abuse: God’s Heart/Our Call
Jesus begins His ministry by reading what Isaiah had prophesied about Him: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free” (Luke 4:18 NIV). This was His mission and He accomplished it.
The Scripture reveals the heart of God towards the poor and oppressed and the commission of His people to make a difference. James says, that a lack of care towards the poor reveals dead faith (James 2:1–17 NIV). Christ followers are to proclaim the kingdom of God in the ways Isaiah speaks about. One way to do that is by opening our eyes to the poverty and abuse of children in our own backyard.
Poverty and Abuse: The Facts
“In the United States the largest group of individuals in poverty is children under the age of 18. The number of children in poverty is close to 50%.”
“In 2005, an estimated 3.3 million children were allegedly abused or neglected.” “Children who live in families with an annual income less than $15,000 are 22 times more likely to be abused or neglected than children in homes with an annual income of $30,000 or more.”
A strong correlation exists between poverty and child abuse.
“Nearly 200,000 people live enslaved at this moment in the United States.”
This billion-dollar industry targets mainly women and children from poor backgrounds. Approximately 293,000 American children are at risk of becoming victims of sex trafficking. Poverty is a catalyst for the domestic abuse of children as well as the trafficking of children into slavery. If this is true, how can we be a part of fighting poverty in the US?
Poverty and Abuse: Organizations Making a Difference
We can begin fighting poverty by partnering with organizations that are making a difference at the root level. Ruby Payne states, “Poverty is the extent to which an individual does without resources.” The ability to leave poverty is more dependent upon other resources than it is upon financial resources.” People need emotional, mental, relational, and support system resources more than they need money. Organizations that are fighting poverty at its root and replenishing the resources needed for people to leave poverty are making the greatest long-term impact. Organizations like The Mentoring Project, Communities in Schools, and The Boys and Girls Club seek to provide the relational and support system resources children need through mentoring programs and educational support. 97% of students mentored through Communities in Schools graduate, and that degree helps them leave poverty. Mentor a child and help break the cycle of poverty.
WMU®’s Project HELPSM, Mission Year, Convoy of Hope, Project 7, NightLight, and the Not for Sale Campaign are a few organizations that provide hands-on ways to combat poverty and abuse happening in the US and abroad. Through Mission Year, you can live in a city making a difference in poverty stricken areas. Through the Not for Sale Campaign, you can fight child trafficking in your local area. Each of these ministries focuses on the root causes of poverty and abuse as well as meeting the basic needs of individuals.
Organizations like these are everywhere. Are you willing to help? David Platt says, “We are settling for a Christianity that revolves around catering to ourselves when the central message of Christianity is actually about abandoning ourselves.” What is God calling you to abandon yourself for today? How can you join Him in the work He is doing in your backyard to free the poor and the oppressed?
AJ works on a church staff in Atlanta, Georgia, doing student ministry and seeking to make kingdom disciples of the next generation. She loves sports, the outdoors, traveling, and ice cream. She blogs at ajayne.blogspot.com.