The foreclosure crisis could end up directly affecting as many as 8.3 million children, according to a report out this week from the advocacy group First Focus. That's a little more than one in every 10 children in the country.
First Focus says it arrived at this figure by adding up all the children in homes that have already entered foreclosure, all the homes at immediate risk of foreclosure and all the rental properties that have been foreclosed on or appear to be at risk. The report, which was authored by a scholar from Brookings, calls its 8.3 million estimate "relatively conservative."
Foreclosures tend to put families in motion, often sending parents to new towns and children to new schools, which can result in emotional and behavioral problems for kids, according to USA Today. First Focus suggests that the stress of foreclosure can also impact parenting styles for the worst -- a plausible conclusion, given that foreclosure-related stress has been linked with depression, anxiety and compulsive behavior in adults.
And the problem goes beyond foreclosure, with more than 16 million children in poverty as of 2010, and recession-related anxiety making ripples in kids' behavior even among the middle and upper middle class.
The report is a reminder of how many families are struggling to maintain a basic level of economic security this election year -- despite the modest economic recovery taking hold.
Unemployment remains high, basic expenses are still out of reach for many, and some analysts believe a new wave of foreclosures is on the horizon, thanks to the multibillion-dollar mortgage settlement that was recently reached with some of the country's largest banks. That settlement will allow some homeowners to deal with their debts, but could also speed the foreclosure process. Some banks had slowed down their foreclosure efforts awaiting the resolution of the mortgage deal.
While some lenders have shown a growing willingness to explore alternatives to foreclosure, like conducting short sales or allowing tenants to stay on as renters, foreclosure remains a wide-scale phenomenon.