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The Poverty Stricken People Of Canada Social Work Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Social Work
Wordcount: 4055 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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One of the first microsystem causes of poverty would be if an individual came from an impoverished family. This is a predisposing factor that an individual is likely to become impoverished themselves, if their family of origin was poor as well. More than half the children in the United States living in poverty grew up to be impoverished, while 1 in 4 grew up to have a low socio-economic status and 1 in 3 in Canada (Corak, 2006). Also, according to the text Social Inequality: Patterns and Processes 4th ed., by Martin Mager, low parental income, may result in poorer quality education, continuing the cycle by making it difficult to find an adequate job due to lack of education. That lack of education becomes a perpetuating factor, which maintains the cycle (Mager, 2008).

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Another cause of poverty in some cases may be divorce or single parenthood. This would be a precipitating cause because together a couple on two incomes may be able to support a child, however, divided they may not have the income to provide as they did previously. According to a study done in Ottawa, children in single parent homes are more likely to become impoverished, especially when there was more than one child living in the home (Fleury, 2008). In many situations, one parent may have stayed at home to care for children and the household, while the other worked, meaning that parent would be dependent on the other parent. If a divorce takes place, the dependent parent no longer has the other parent to support them, and they may not have employment, making it very easy for them to fall into poverty.

Yet another cause of poverty is addiction, which can be both a precipitating and a perpetuating cause. Addictions can often lead to loss of employment and misuse of finances which can bring on and perpetuate the issue of poverty. Lawrence M. Mead says “although poverty is not an addiction, it is often caused by and causes addiction.” Addiction has a definite trickle effect on poverty. If one has an addiction, for example, to a drug, it becomes the most important thing in their life, all their money goes to purchasing the drug, all their time is devoted to “scoring” and doing drugs, which means, they may not go to school or work, or their behaviour causes them to be dismissed, meaning they have no means for an income. The addict’s income would go towards drugs, and not other needs, or they would not have an income at all, leaving them in poverty.

Lastly, a cause of poverty is often debt and poor debt management. It is possible to live with some debt and not have to live in poverty, however if debt is not managed properly and becomes more than one is capable of dealing with, it can lead to poverty. “Four million Americans would fall below the federal poverty line if the interest they pay on their credit cards and other consumer debts were subtracted from their incomes” says a San Francisco Chronicle article. These people are called the “debt poor” (Abate, 2009). These people, although they may not look like the stereotypical poor, they technically do not have the means to obtain the necessities of life and, at some point are faced with bankruptcy and the loss of their home.

Microsystem Consequences

A microsystem consequence of poverty is low self-esteem. It is obvious children living in poverty have trouble buying the latest trends, their parents may not drive the nicest car or drive a car at all, maybe they do not have a washer and dryer and so sometimes they have to go without clean clothes for a period. Their parents cannot afford to put them in music lessons or sign them up for sports teams. Some children, who are resilient would not let this stop them from being confident, however, not all children understand that they are not on a level playing field, so to speak and believe that it is a weakness in themselves and not inequity within the system and feel that their personal worth is directly related to their financial worth. A child with the tools to succeed is more likely to succeed and if they succeed, they become more confident, making them more likely to take more risks, with a likelihood of succeeding again and increasing their confidence more. In some cases, children in poverty lack those tools, or have to work harder for them, meaning they do not succeed as often, decreasing their self-esteem (Eric J. Marsh, 2010).

Bullying is another consequence of poverty that often goes along with low self-esteem. Children in poverty are often bullied. According to a study done in the UK, low-income children are often the target of bullying in wealthier areas, because of their socio-economic status (Branigan, 2007). One in 13 children in an international study of 35 countries and more than 162 000 children reported bullying due to their socio-economic status. The inequity among adolescents from low socio-economic backgrounds puts them at a greater risk for bullying. Teens that are from schools and living in countries where there is a bigger gap between socio-economic groups are at higher risk of being bullied.

Poverty also has a huge impact on children’s physical development. One in ten Canadians is affected by food insecurity which has a correlation to poor health (Kirkpatrick, 2008). Without proper diet, children will lack the nutrients they need to develop optimally, and may even become over or under weight. Studies show children with a balanced diet are sick less often than children with poor nutrition (Kirkpatrick, 2008). Families may not be able to afford medical expenses or treatments that would prevent their child from illness or lessen the effects of an illness or injury, causing impairment. Also, parents in low-income homes may find it more difficult to afford necessary repairs in the household that would ensure their child’s safety. Pregnant mothers living in poverty also pose a risk, if they are not able to afford adequate prenatal care.

Poverty has an impact on mental health, as well. Children from low socio-economic backgrounds were more than twice as likely to suffer from anxiety and depression as their counterparts from better socio-economic statuses (Mark Lemstra, 2008). Children from low-income families, not only have the normal stress a child would have, many impoverished children are aware of their families’ hardships and have developed anxiety about bills and debts and food security, and feelings of hopelessness about their situations and lack positive feelings of self-worth.

Besides affecting physical and mental health, social development is also a consequence of poverty. Poverty has an impact on the development of social skills in children. Children living in poverty often have poorer language skills and less developed coping skills, which in turn impacts the quality of their relationships with peers (Lisa Fiorentino, 2004). Children living in poverty also have less opportunity for social interaction due to the fact they are not able to afford to be part of extra-curricular groups that help develop social skills and encourage peer relationships. Without the money to afford the same social opportunities children in low-income homes are not able to develop social skills as easily, so poverty is a definite impact on social development.

Cognitive impairment has also been cited as a consequence of poverty. According to research, children who are malnourished will suffer cognitive deficiencies and children living in poverty are more likely to be malnourished than those who are middle class or affluent. Also, children who are poor are less equipped to explore their environment meaning they are not receiving the same mental stimulation or their environment is less stimulating (Brown, 1996). Parents are also less able to afford to put their children in activities or purchase things like books and computers that would help stimulated cognitive development. Thus, there are various reasons why poverty has an influence on cognitive development including malnutrition, and lack of opportunity for mental stimulation.

Another unfortunate consequence of poverty is abuse and neglect. According to research from the NSPCC:

“women from poor childhood homes were twice as likely to have suffered abuse or neglect (77 per cent versus 38 per cent), and the association was even more striking with multiple forms of abuse, with a three-fold increase: 45 per cent of those from poor childhood homes had experienced more than one form of abuse compared with 15 per cent who had experienced no poverty.” (NSPCC, 2008)

Poverty can put a lot of stress and strain on families making parents more susceptible to becoming perpetrators and children more vulnerable and likely to be victimized. Lack of resources also makes it more difficult to provide children with their basic needs, which does not always constitute an allegation of neglect, however, if the parent is using child welfare tax and child support for personal use and not to provide for the child it is neglect.

Poverty can also impact one’s personal values and beliefs. Children’s values and beliefs are affected by their socio-economic status. From personal experience, being very poor growing up, I had a certain paradigm. I believed that wealthy people were the enemy and that they did not value me because I was poor. I also did not value education very much because I did not believe I would have the opportunity to go to college or university, because my parents could not afford to help me pay for it. I learned not to value money and do with less. Family was important to me, since I spent so much time at home, due to the fact I could not afford to be in any lessons or on sports teams. It is obvious a child from a poor home compared to a family from a wealthy home would have a very different outlook on life.

Mesosystem Causes

Lack of resources is a precipitating cause of poverty. There is a lack of affordable housing and lack of services available to combat poverty and to assist those in poverty, especially for new immigrants coming to Canada. There are not enough services available to help new Canadians adjust, to help them upgrade education, to find jobs and affordable homes and to learn the language so they can succeed at their job and at school. In some more rural areas there is no ESL program offered. Also, the complicated forms and waitlists mean people in need of poverty relief may not get help for months (Canadian Council on Social Development, 2010).

Loss of employment is a precipitating cause of poverty, as well. Loss of a job sometimes not only means loss of financial support from an employer, it also means loss of insurance. Meaning medical and dental care, house repair, car repair are not covered, so families do without or are put further in debt by having to pay for medical or repair bills. If a family has no income it is difficult to provide necessities for one’s family, and if the low-income cut-off is more than 50% of income is spent on necessities, than anyone who is unemployed or whose spouse is unemployed will likely fit that criteria (Statistics Canada, 2010).

Mesosystem consequences

A microsystem consequence of poverty was child abuse and neglect, so it is evident then, that on a mesosystem level there is a consequence which affects Children’s Aid Societies. CAS woks with families to help get them on track and get support that they may not otherwise be able to afford for their child. According to OACAS, many of the children using their services are living in poverty (Laurie Monseebaaten, 2008). Poverty is a blanket problem which is the cause and consequence of many of the things CAS deals with on a regular basis, often times to deal with these other problems they provide families with services that deal with poverty.

Another big consequence of poverty is that it affects the child’s school experience. In some cases children go to school in a poorer neighbourhood and so their peers are poor, but quite often poor children go to schools where there is socio-economic inequality. This, in some cases affects them more as it makes the children more reluctant to accept help financially to pay for field trips or sports teams. They lose out on learning opportunities because of their poverty. They also have a more difficult time succeeding in school because they may not have access to computers or books necessary to help them learn and complete school work, and because they may have jobs outside of school to help them combat the poverty, leaving them less time for their school work (Sands, 2007).

Poverty is a big barrier to health care, even in Canada. Although initial healthcare is free. The cost of medication, eye care and dental care is still too expensive for some people to afford. For example, there is a treatment for AIDS however, it is too expensive for individuals to buy, but the pharmaceutical companies will not distribute it for free or at a lesser cost because they do not wish to lose profit (UNFPA, 2009). Because dental care, eye care and medication are for the most part, not every day needs, most people living in poverty go without it.

Another consequence of poverty is that churches are involved in poverty relief around the world. Religious groups are the number one source of charitable funds donated in Canada and advocates for the poor according to the World Council of Churches (World Council of Churches, 2011). Churches are very involved locally and internationally with the fight against poverty, they work on all levels of prevention, primary, secondary and tertiary. They support the development of micro businesses for women in Indian as a primary prevention, they work with Canadian Food Grains Bank to distribute food as a secondary prevention and they work in soup kitchens and assist people locally who come into get support as a tertiary prevention. (McLennan, 2011).

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A consequence of poverty is the inability to afford to put children into extracurricular activities and segregation in extracurricular activities. This has consequences in itself, but in general, the high cost of music and dance lessons and sports teams means that children are not able to participate, or are segregated to specific activities that are more affordable. Recently, there has been offered a tax break for parents of children on sports teams, which has alleviated some of the stress put on parents to allow their children to participate, however, some parents still struggle to put their children in activities, some of which are difficult to get to if parents do not have reliable transportation.

Having children in extracurricular activities is also a primary preventative measure for preventing children from getting involved in crime, so parents in poverty who cannot afford to put their children in sports or pay for some kind of art lessons may also have to suffer another consequence of poverty, which is having their children involved in crime. Crime is another consequence of poverty for a number of reasons. Families may steal food to supplement what little they have, children and youth may steal things they want that they cannot afford, parents and children may get involved with dealing drugs or fraud to supplement their income. A study done in the U.S. also shows that the law is more lenient to affluent offenders giving them little or no jail time compared to poorer offenders (Reiman, 1995).

Another consequence of poverty is that families are segregated to specific neighbourhoods and attend specific schools depending on their income. Rarely when low-income housing is built is it just one house in a relatively affluent neighbourhood, most low income housing is built in blocks; townhouses or apartments and there is often more than one in a neighbourhood. Thus, that particular neighbourhood is stigmatized as being “the poor neighbourhood”. Peers are all from similar socio-economic backgrounds, schools in the neighbourhood are often overwhelmingly populated by low-income children (Fleury, 2008).

Exosystem Causes

A perpetuating cause of poverty is lack of government funding for poverty relief. For people already living in poverty if they cannot get sufficient assistance to help them out of poverty, it means they remain there longer. Any social assistance one may receive is barely enough to live on so these people are still only making ends meet. Without the opportunity to save some money people will continue living paycheque to paycheque and if there is an emergency it may put more financial strain on them, because they did not have enough to live on to begin with and they are put into debt.

Another perpetuating cause of poverty among immigrants in Canada is the transportation loans. Refugee families come to Canada, hoping for a better life, the Canadian government is kind enough to loan them money for travel expenses, which are very costly. However, they are expected to pay this loan back within a very brief window of time, keeping in mind that what little money they came with has been put towards finding a place to live and they may not even have a job yet (Canadian Council for Refugees, 2010). Unfortunately, this is of little concern to the government, so these people must struggle both with being able to support themselves in a new country and with paying back debt, perpetuating their poverty.

Next, the cost of living in Canada has a great impact on poverty and is a precipitating consequence. This is a cause more often attributed to developed countries. The average cost of rent in Toronto is between $775 and $895 for a 1 bedroom apartment, the cost of groceries for a month is approximately $100 a month and the cost of telephone services is about $23 a month (Fast Facts, 2006). With just those expenses, the cost of living for a month can be more than $1000, however, a person employed full-time (40 hrs/wk) at minimum wage ($10.25) makes less than twice that, meaning significantly more than half of their income goes towards necessities of life.

Finally, a perpetuating cause for poverty among children is the discrepancy in the Low-Income Cut-off with regards to what necessities are. It observes the need for clothing, shelter and food; however, it does not take into account a child’s need for social and emotional development and scholastic success, which may come from appropriate childcare, participation in extracurricular activities and the purchase of school supplies. Without these things it is much more difficult to succeed in school and life, meaning less stable employment, which in turn results in continuing the cycle of poverty.

Exosystem Consequences

One of the consequences of poverty is how people view those on social assistance. There is the common stigma that people on social assistance are abusing the system and that they are just lazy and do not wish to get a job, however that is not always the case. In some cases, the recipient of social assistant is someone who was a dependant and did not work or could not work and for a variety of reasons had to leave that dependant situation and needed financial support, but was not able to find a job immediately (Pulkingham, 2011).

The portrayal of poverty in media is a consequence has a consequence on how poverty is viewed. The media has created this stereotype of the poor adolescent. They are always from the wrong side of the tracks, engage in immoral behaviour, get into a lot of fights and never excel in school or they are portrayed as dirty street children. For example, in the movie Slums of Beverly Hills, the characters are a poor family who must constantly move to avoid paying rent; the young female is not interested in school and is very promiscuous (Jenkins, 1998). Evidently, this inaccurate portrayal of poverty does not help with a child’s self-esteem or to reduce bullying or encourage impoverished youth that they are capable of achieving great things.

Another myth that has become the consequence of how people view poverty is the myth that people who use soup kitchens and food banks are homeless or jobless, when in reality many of the people accessing these facilities are working poor, who have jobs, and perhaps a home. They may be able to pay their rent, but their income is not sufficient enough to afford adequate food. Close to 7 million workers earn less than $ 20 000 per annum and

40% of impoverished children live in families where at least one parent is employed full-time year round. Parents have children to care for and sometimes that means they need to supplement their meals with food from a food bank or meals from a soup kitchen to make sure their children are fed (Poor No More, 2009).

Next, a consequence of how people view poverty is the myth that poor children are less intelligent and not as successful as wealthier children. Although there is evidence that poorer children are more likely to struggle in school and that they will continue the cycle of poverty and that poverty is a risk factor for lower IQ, this is not always the case. Really, this depends on resilience. The more resilient and determined a child is, the more likely they will overcome their circumstances and excel in school and in life (Lisa Fiorentino, 2004). Although they may not have the same resources as a wealthy child, as long as they have a good support system and the determination to succeed no matter what obstacles are placed in front of them, they will break free from that stereotype.

Yet another myth that exists is that poor people are always looking for handouts. This is actually very inaccurate; often families remain in poverty because they are too proud to ask for assistance which could be a perpetuating cause of poverty as well. Also, though they are poor they are far from helpless. Many people would be happy to offer their skills or work in return for support and would feel more fulfilled doing so (Poor No More, 2009). Some acknowledgement and treatment as an equal is often what the poor are looking for, not just spare change.

The final myth that exists in our society is that poverty only happens in Africa, this. The overwhelming amount of support and publicity the poverty stricken continent receives is inspiring, however, servicing the local poor does not seem nearly as important to people. When we look at the private aid going overseas to relieve poverty and the amount of sponsorship and adoption of children in developing nations, it is significantly more that what is received locally. Fifteen per cent of Canadian children are living in poverty; that is approximately 100 thousand children (Fleury, 2008). 100 thousand children who need help, but are overlooked for children in developing countries. Poverty does happen in Canada.

Macrosystem Causes

A precipitating cause of poverty that has been highly publicized in recent years is the economy. Canada, along with nearly the entire rest of the world has felt the impact of an economic depression which has inflated prices, caused job loss and created a huge influx of people into social assistance. As previously discussed, cost of living, job loss and lack of resources are causes of poverty; an economic depression is the cause of all three, making poverty an issue on a supranational scale. Third world governments are obligated to compete with each other and with more dominant, developed nations. To attract investors, impoverished countries attempt to provide cheaper resources, goods and labour. This has only increased poverty (Shah, 2011). So, the economy has been an international cause of poverty.

Additionally, war is a precipitating cause of poverty. War causes immense destruction and costs millions of dollars. There is destruction to systems such as social services and health care and resources are diluted and redirected from poverty relief to maintaining the war, as well as physical damage to buildings and belongings. This consequently results in poverty


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