Tuesday, October 11, 2011

There is a Lot to Talk About this Season

Image by Marufish/FlickrThe weather is getting crisp, flu shots are being pedaled and pumpkin spice lattes are back in our famously hot state! Dig a little deeper, past the casual conversation about the weather and you'll see that there's quite a bit to talk about in South Carolina. With poverty data spilling onto the market, the sticky numbers aren’t exclusive to the weather in South Carolina anymore. Let's not only start the conversation about our less-than-impressive ratings, but let's make a plan to move forward and bring improvement to our state. After all, if we don’t help our state as a whole, what does that say about us as individuals?

Unemployment rates are a scary thing to discuss, but when South Carolina inched closer to having the highest level of unemployment rates in the nation, I think we all held our breath. As a student graduating college at the tail end of the Great Recession, I experienced a very selfish fear of not being able to find steady employment. I knew the impact of South Carolina's soaring unemployment numbers on myself, but I hadn't thought about the impact on our state's children and their future. Now that I’m working in Research and Evaluation, the picture is clear. Our state’s children, who hold our state’s future, are greatly impacted by these numbers. The year I graduated (2010), we came in second in the nation with the highest percentage (6.6%) of children with all resident parents unemployed.

As unemployment rates soared, the snowball of homelessness, food insecurity, and foreclosure gained momentum. In 2009, nearly one in four (24%) children in South Carolina were living in a household with an income below the Federal Poverty level--that's $22,050 for a family of four. Without a doubt, many of these children are also part of the one in four children that will go to bed hungry tonight. Close to half (43%) of US households report they are struggling to afford stable housing. During the 2009-2010 school year, 10,820 South Carolina students experienced homelessness first-hand; 14.5% of those students did not have a sheltered nighttime residence. Not only are the parents and guardians of children in South Carolina faced with a very discouraging job market where the unemployment rate nearly doubled during the Recession, they must also worry about the impact of these factors on their dependents. It's time that we take action to help ourselves and our state.

With Thanksgiving approaching, I encourage everyone to take time to reflect on people and things that you are grateful to have in your life. I also encourage you to get involved and give back to your community. As the holidays approach, we'll certainly receive more than we need of something. Take that something to a neighbor or pack a bag of non-perishables for Harvest Hope Food Bank. Hug your family members and tell them how much they mean to you while you can. Talk to your children (or the children in your family) not only about how much you love them, but about how important it is for them to succeed. Talk about values and create an open line of communication. A caring adult can create revolutionary change in a young person. 

- Jordan Slice is a Research and Evaluation Assistant at the SC Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy. Contact Jordan at jslice@teenpregnancysc.org.

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