“Feeling lost and forgotten, walking around the block for what felt like the thousandth time - well maybe not the thousandth time; I’m not so sure my just-today-seven-year-old legs would carry me that many times. Dad is gone again. Whether he was kicked out by my mom, on a drunk binge, or in jail again, who knows. The three older siblings, a twelve year old and eleven year old twins, were in charge. They had to take care of me and a five, four, and one year old.

“How could everyone forget my birthday? I tried to go home, but my siblings locked the door and took the younger ones out. I was left to fend for myself. I spent what felt like an eternity walking around town trying to find my brothers and sisters or something to do. Finally around five o’clock that evening my sister let me into the house.

“‘Surprise! they all yelled!’ My brothers and sisters - they remembered!!! They even invited friends! In my parents’ absence my sister took it upon herself to make sure I had a birthday party. She had spent the day going around town collecting pop cans to make enough money to buy me a birthday present, my first Barbie, and making me a cake. She hadn’t forgotten.

“There was just not enough money in our family to even feed us kids while the parents were away. My sister wanted me to know I was important too! Years later this story sticks with me with so much meaning.”

Recently someone shared her childhood stories of living in poverty, and these will be continued in the next few weeks. Poverty for children does not simply mean getting by with less. Children growing up in poverty fall behind their peers early, with gaps in learning, knowledge, health, and social-emotional development. These gaps can grow wider every year.

Parents face numerous challenges. They have trouble planning and providing for their family’s material needs. Parents who live in poverty often work multiple part-time jobs and have no benefits like insurance or paid time off. Housing issues often exist, with living in substandard properties and difficulty paying rent and utilities. Because of all the stress dealing with everyday life, families in poverty often have more problems with violence in the home.

Over the next few months, the Task Force on Poverty will be presenting more stories about poverty and information about agencies in Box Butte County which deal with problems faced by those who live in poverty. Bridges Out of Poverty will be holding a day-long conference on June 11, 2020, at the Alliance High School Commons. This organization has a global reputation for helping understand the lives of those who live in poverty. Watch for more information as we develop strategies to deal with this all-too-common problem facing so many in our area.

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