Missouri Grapples with Children Living in Poverty
The leader of a Jefferson City daycare said she hasn’t seen any evidence of a reported downturn in the number of Missouri children living in poverty.
Data from coalition group Missourians to End Poverty shows that roughly 261,000 children are living in poverty in the state, and there’s been a slight decline in the number in recent years. Donna Scheidt, executive director of Little Explorers Discovery Center, said she hasn’t seen much of a change in her more than 36 years working at the daycare.
Scheidt told the Jefferson City News-Tribune that many parents of children at her center live paycheck to paycheck.
“We give priorities to working poor — to those families who have nowhere else to go,” she said.
The daycare is filled to capacity with infants to school-age children, and it accepts payments on a sliding scare.
“I know that my daughter wanted a pair of Nike tennis shoes one year,” said Scheidt, who sent her children to the center. “She (realized that she) had a friend who didn’t have tennis shoes at all.”
Missourians to End Poverty’s 2018 report shows that about 14% of Missouri residents were living at or below the federal poverty level last year, while more than 19% of Missouri children live in poverty, according to the newspaper.
Joy Ledbetter, a social worker and family advocate at the Boys & Girls Club of Jefferson City, said poverty can take many forms.
“It can be an unsafe place to live; a lack of food resources; someone not being able to stay on a child about how important their education is,” Ledbetter said.
She added that some students might not have a parent home at night to help them with homework.
The majority of the 500 students who attend the club after school come from families living in poverty. Ledbetter said the club’s programs at the very least help students feel better about themselves.