02/16/2011 01:25 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Child Poverty and America's Middle Class Dilemma

The 2010 U.S. Census Bureau provides some startling insight into the plight of a citizenry in great need. According to analysis, 40 million Americans and 15.5 million children are currently living in poverty; millions fell into poverty last year, alone. These startling figures may forecast a dire future for generations to come.

Anyone who has studied poverty knows that it is a complex issue with a plethora of causes and effects at play. Unfortunately, the impact of poverty is often most pronounced in the lives of our nation's youth. Marian Wright Edelman, the president and founder of the Children's Defense Fund, has this so say in The Madison Times:

"The greatest threat to America's national security comes from no enemy without, but from our own failure to protect, invest in, and educate all of our children who make up all of our futures in this global economy...[As a nation] we need to invest now in child health, early childhood development, and education. For today is tomorrow."

Certainly, education and poverty have inherent ties and the impact that poverty has on children is profound. Aside from the considerations we must make when exploring the impact of child poverty, another disturbing and related trend has been the flow of middle-class families toward becoming working-class poor families.

As the economy has languished many people who had little or no personal finance problems before are now facing economic struggles. Prior to the U.S. recession, places like Long Island, N.Y. were deemed as being the "birthplace of the suburban American Dream," according to Julia Cass, Children's Defense Fund journalist. Today, the tide has changed. In a report entitled, "Held Captive: Child Poverty in America," Crass writes,

"[Yet now] there are families falling from middle class to working poor and from the working poor into poverty...and are living in motels, [where] food pantries are emptying, and outreach agencies are running out of funds to help with a month's rent or an overdue utility bill."

Many working parents are struggling to make ends meet, as they work feverishly to pay their bills and take care of their children. Cass interviewed many Long Islanders, including a teacher with three kids (one of her children has special needs) and an auto-shop worker (who is also a parent).

The teacher - once considered middle class - is divorced and is now considered part of America's "working poor". Similarly, the auto-body shop worker has been forced to make sacrifices, including his daily lunch, in order to keep a roof over his child's head and food on the table. These adults, like many others, are working to their capacity, yet they are struggling to meet their families’ needs.

The 2010 U.S. Census Bureau results reinforce "the steepest rise in child poverty and the largest single year increase since the 1960's" (Edelman). Like many, Edelman believes that America's current poverty problems pose a future socio-political threat to the welfare of our society.

Considering this information, what will you do to help "the least of these?" Here's Life Inner City offers a variety of programs and outreaches that seek to meet physical and spiritual needs. Currently, we are preparing and distributing Homeless Care Kits to children and families in need. Click here to find out how you can save lives through this essential outreach. Also, be sure to leave your thoughts and questions in the comments section below.

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