Poor Children Face Greater Adversity In School

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Although reports suggest the U.S. economy is staging a turnaround, poverty still has its hold on Southeast Ohio.

According to 2009 statistics from the Athens County Jobs and Family Services, that 29.6 percent of residents in Athens County live below the poverty line, while the statewide poverty level is at 13.3 percent.

Teachers at area schools face the challenge of helping children who come from families living in poverty.

Children face hunger, parental drug addiction and, at times, abuse.

Student teacher Erica Ohmer volunteers at some of the poorest schools in Athens County, and she says malnourishment is a common issue with students who live in poverty.

“In some districts, the majority of the students are on free and reduced lunches. A lot of schools provide every student with breakfast so I think that’s awesome,” Ohmer said.

Drug abuse is another serious issue related to poverty and that impacts children in low-income homes.

Dealing drugs can be an easy and quick way to make money for those who can’t otherwise.

Abuse can also be a way to deal with the everyday hardships of living in poverty.

Director of Athens Court Appointed Special Advocates Rebecca Miller says she often sees examples of this struggle in the court system.

“[Drugs are] very accessible right now, and it’s very expensive, and it’s very addictive, and so you take that combination and unfortunately it grips people,” Miller said.

According to the Ohio Department of Alcohol and Drug Addiction Services, 18.5 percent of those living in poverty in the Athens region suffer from drug addiction.

Miller says this can lead to serious problems like emotional and physical abuse for the children of drug users.

“The majority of the kids that we see come into care in Athens County is due to dependency issues, which is basically, you know, unfortunately Athens County has a really bad drug problem and we have a lot of young kids come into care because of maternal [or] paternal substance abuse,” Miller said.

ODADAS reports that powdered cocaine is the most available in the Athens area, although alcohol, marijuana, and prescription pills are the most abused.

According to Ohmer, teachers provide for the students the best they can within the school's means.

Federal funding helps schools battle malnourishment and hunger.

Trimble Local School District is one of the poorest school districts in the area.