(Editor's note: This is the first in a series of five Underreported Stories of 2011*)
By Josh Sternberg
The number of homeless children in the United States is at its highest levels in the nation's history, according to a study released last week from the National Center on Family Homelessness. 1 out of every 45 children is homeless. That's a staggering number; a majority of them are under 7.
The Christian Science Monitor quotes the study about what the children have lost and the consequences of losing these possessions:
Despite their growing numbers, homeless children are invisible to most of us; they have no voice and no constituency,” the report says. “Without a bed to call their own, these children have lost safety, privacy, and the comforts of home, as well as their friends, possessions, pets, reassuring routines and communities.”
Children experiencing homelessness also tend to struggle with hunger, poor health, and missed educational opportunities. A majority of homeless children have limited proficiency in math and reading, according to the report.
USA Today also covered this story, including data on the states with the lowest and highest numbers of homeless children:
The study, a state-by-state report card, looks at four years' worth of Education Department data. It assesses how homeless children fare based on factors including the state's wages, poverty and foreclosure rates, cost of housing and its programs for homeless families.
The states where homeless children fare the best are Vermont, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota and Maine.
It finds the worst states for homeless children are Southern states where poverty is high, including Alabama, Mississippi and Arkansas, and states decimated by foreclosures and job losses, such as Arizona, California and Nevada.
Since this is a new study, it’s getting attention now, but this is a tragic trend that has been on the rise throughout 2011 – and should be discussed every day. One in 45 kids has no roof over his or her head tonight. Remember that number.
In July, the Boston Globe had this story about how Boston Medical Center is seeing more and more malnourished, “dangerously thin” children in the emergency room.
Doctors at a major Boston hospital report they are seeing more hungry and dangerously thin young children in the emergency room than at any time in more than a decade of surveying families.
Food is costing more, and dollars don’t stretch as far,’’ [Dr. Megan Sandel, an associate professor of pediatrics and public health at BMC ] said. “It’s hard to maintain a diet that is healthy.’’
The emergency room survey found a similarly striking increase in the percentage of families with children who reported they did not have enough food each month, from 18 percent in 2007 to 28 percent in 2010.
In August, New York Times columnist Charles Blow wrote, “One of the greatest casualties of the great recession may well be a decade of lost children.”
* Five Underreported Stories of 2011: This time of year, media outlets publish their year-in-review articles and lists, looking back on recent history and reflecting on the major events that shaped the past 365 days. In fact, the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism conducted a study of the year’s top stories and the frequency of each reported story.
However, for a variety of reasons, there are always some stories that slip through the cracks and don’t get as much attention. This is our list, in no particular order, of five stories that went underreported in 2011.
(Photo: Getty Images)