Indiana’s Children

Sunday sermon.

According to the Indianapolis Star, the improving state economy touted by Gov. Mike Pence at campaign stops “has yet to trickle down to the 345,000 Hoosier children, or more than 1 in 5, living in poverty.”

In a recent editorial, the Anderson Herald Bulletin urged lawmakers to deal with the reality of Indiana’s working poor.

The Herald Bulletin has reported extensively this year on a group labeled Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (ALICE) in a study released in 2014 by the Indiana Association of United Ways.

About 23 percent of Indiana’s population and about 28 percent of people living in Madison County belong to the ALICE group. While they earn too much income to qualify for most forms of welfare, they earn too little to afford necessities, pay monthly bills and save enough money to handle unexpected expenses such as illnesses and car repairs. Hoosiers who belong to this group find themselves in a spiral of debt toward poverty.

Many belonging to the ALICE group have children and find that paying for child care while they work is often a money-losing proposition. In Indiana, the Child Care Development Fund provides subsidies to help financially insecure families pay for child care.

It’s a great program, but it has a major flaw. A slight rise in income level can cause a family to lose eligibility, providing a disincentive to work hard and earn a raise. If CCDF subsidies were set up on a sliding scale, hard work would be rewarded.

Tweaking the CCDF program with a sliding scale is something we should do. And we should provide adequate resources for the Department of Children’s Services. But important as individual programs may be,  the inconvenient truth is that the welfare of Hoosier children is inextricably connected to the welfare of the families that are raising them.

When wage levels are too low to allow those families to provide decent housing, adequate nutrition and reliable child-care, children suffer. Recent research also suggests that the higher stress levels common to low-wage households take a particular toll on the children in those families, who arrive at school unready to learn,  and who have poorer health prospects and lower life expectancies.

A policy agenda focused upon keeping Indiana a low-wage state not only fails to create the promised jobs–it hurts children.

Politicians uniformly insist that they care about children, but aside from efforts to ensure that every conception ends in the birth of a child, I haven’t seen much evidence for that concern.


  1. Politicians uniformly care about not wanting Planned Parenthood Clinics, abortions or help for unwed mothers. They do not want anything to happen to a child after it is conceived but once it is born, they no longer feel any responsibility for the child. They don’t care about the fact that many children are living in poverty, being abused and not adequately receiving good health benefits or even enough to eat, let alone not having clothing, school supplies etc. They care about everything before the birth of children, but not much after. I remember seeing older men and women pacing in front of abortion clinics with signs and preventing young women from entering but they never offered the women any help that I could see. They want poor family members to be employed, but there is no money for day care or child care, since they do not want the hourly wages increased. Wealthy people have no problems but poorer people have many! Sad sad!

  2. Madison County is not the only part of Indiana that struggles to get through life; it is going on all over the state. As a teacher, I have seen the state slip down the slope of low-wage jobs through the condition of students’ lives in the public schools where I have taught.

    One of the best ways to get a picture of child poverty in Indiana is to peruse through the Indiana DOE Compass site that charts data for individual schools and school corporations. . Search through individual school corporations and the pie charts illustrate that Indiana has not only 1 in 5 children living in poverty, but a whopping bunch of families that are right on the edge. School corporations must report the number of students that receive free and reduced lunches which is an indicator of poverty. So a child that comes from a family where the employed adult makes $9/hour (the current Wal-Mart wage) will make $18,000 per year and that qualifies them for free lunches. A household wage earner making $37,000 with 2 kids will qualify for reduced price lunches for their children. Most people assume that the poverty is confined to the larger urban areas of the state, Indianapolis, Fort Wayne, Gary, etc., but the rural areas are affected just as much. Examples of the number of students receiving free and reduced lunches – Tipton Schools, 40.2%; Warsaw Schools, 49%; Bluffton, 47.7%; Springs Valley (French Lick), 52.1; Rising Sun, 36%; Attica, 53%.

    Poverty is particularly cruel to children in rural areas because services are limited: agencies that assist in securing services such as Section 8 vouchers, food stamps and energy assistance are located miles away in larger cities and there is no form of public transportation to get to those agencies. The public schools become the source for families seeking help because the public schools are the ones that have to take the responsibility to make sure these student in or on the edge of poverty can learn.

    Pence touts the unemployment rate as such a great thing – “Indiana A State That Works,” but in reality, the data paints a grim picture of a state that has majority of the population living from payday to payday with no safety net for those that fall. It is time that we demand the public policy makes in the Statehouse do their job and take care of our future – the children of Indiana who are dropping further and further into that hold of poverty. The cost of pulling them out of that hole is an astronomical price that we will have to pay for over generations.

  3. For a nation that wants to be seen first and foremost as “Christian” the whole concept of working poor is appalling. We have got to realistically look at how to make a living wage a reality not just a pipe dream. What our state government has been prioritizing is NOT moving us towards this.

  4. Where are you Goober er Gooper? Surely you have a comment here or there. After all here we are talking about people who don’t want to work and then want a handout.

  5. One perspective is that fundamentally economics is pretty straightforward if you eliminate the abstraction of money. So what we all have to divy up is what we all produce. I think that it’s pretty obvious that if we all continued to produce what we do, and divied it up evenly we’d all be fine.

    But, some would say, if we did that some would be lazy and would not continue to work as hard (or next generations would be not as motivated as those that they replace) and others would be petulent thinking their job was harder and deserved more than their share and choose to only do easier work so our total production would fall and there would be less to divy up. Possibly.

    Then there would be the problem of who’s included in the “everybody”. Everybody? Certain locations? By race, creed, or color?

    To the degree that any of that came true humanity would probably solve the problem by some sort of free market solution. You guys get a little more because you’re producing something there is growing demand for or some individuals get more because they can and do contribute more to production.

    Would that eventually get us back to here? Would the greedy/power hungery trick the system so lopsidedly in their favor again? Probably. We’d probably have to repeat feudalism. That is in the absence of government. If we had democratic government we could solve those equations. We could find balance. The sweet spot.

    But recent history demonstrates that the greedy/power hungery can even trick democratic government.

    Bringing us to here and now. And poverty.

    We all think confined to the story we’ve been told about how the world works which varies all over the place between us (culture). So our problem is more too many ideas rather than not enough. Our evolution though as been a series of close calls at first base as new previously unthought ideas came in the nick of time. This time too?

    Though some might accuse me of not being creative enough I believe that our evolution out of here begins with the restoration of democracy. And the rule of law. I don’t see new thinking emerging that would be more powerful than that. Call me crazy.

    So lets do it and see. Take back our government as a start. Evangelize some. Spread the word. Lead by example.

  6. Thanks Sheila and various commenters.

    Yes, Indiana is pro-life until birth. After that, the safety net has many holes. To “solve” this problem, our state passes legislation to lower common construction wages, weaken unions, and discriminate against some employees and customers based on religion.

    Thanks Teresa for noting that rural poverty is even more difficult to combat than urban poverty. That’s why I’ve always been grateful for township trustees in farm communities. Several times my parents called on the township trustee to provide essential – sometimes life-saving – poor relief to rural families when efforts of neighbors and churches (who also were low income but not as poor as the poorest) couldn’t fill all their needs.

    When a factory moves out of the country or a CEO cuts jobs to boost payments to top management, no dismissed worker wants to be forced to work 3 minimum wage jobs and leave his/her children unattended to afford the bare essentials of food, clothing, and shelter. Whatever else it is, it definitely is NOT pro-family.

  7. Even on the weekend, this should be a much hotter hot-button topic than it appears to be. Thanks to Sheila and others who have commented. Yes, and where is Reppog? I prefer the backward spelling since his thinking is so very off-base and backward. These are children and other fragile members of society we’re talking about here.

  8. Our Governor cares more about reelection than children living in poverty. Our Governor cares more about unnecessary state budget surpluses than good jobs. Our Governor professes to be a man of faith, yet voted to kill the jobs of thousands of Hoosiers when he voted against the auto bailout. The Governor worked hard to rip power away from the State School Superintendent but declined millions of federal dollars for early childhood education. Governor Pence is a complete failure.

  9. “After all, under the Constitution, may it rest in peace, the states were the primary source of government.”

    Gopper wrote this yesterday after everybody else had gone home.

    He’s only off by one word. He would have been right if he’d said “before” instead of “under” the Constitution.

    Before, there were only separate colonies and King George et al. The victory of our forefathers replaced King George with the republic.

    Of course Goppers predecessors tested his thesis during the Civil War and the issue was finally resolved. The Republic stood supreme.

    I’m not sure personally why Gropper feels the need to test the question again. Especially considering that your state is to the Republic what Greece is to the Euro community. A mouth to feed rather than a worker to produce.

    If Gropper were to get his way the oligarchy of Indiana would rank with the third world countries of the world in all ways except sports.

    You know that I think a lot about the role of culture in our lives and chalk Gopper’s bloopers up to that primarily but that merely begs the question: what culture has lagged behind so drastically and why?

  10. Very well said Sheila, Teresa and John. Our governor and legislature should all be ashamed of themselves.

  11. The discussions on this blog are interesting and provacative and appreciated.

    I cannot add much to the picture regarding poverty, child poverty, and its far reaching, long lasting, deleterious nasty nasty effects. Except to note that, sadly, Indiana is not alone in creating and condoning pervasive hardship for families at the bottom of the heap. As we all also know, skin colour is too often a clear indicator for just who is not welcome at any door leading out of poverty.

    In pondering the issue it occurs to me to note that Christianity, and perhaps other religious systems of belief, along with moral views supposedly non-religious all seem to indulge in shaming or blaming or accusing the poor as lesser beings who lack the appropriate fibre for pulling themselves out of poverty and properly caring for or about their children. Thus, the pro-life (so called) attitude that after birth you are on your own, you ‘immoral, feckless, (any descriptor that implies negative judgement)’ excuse for a human being. I submit that this entire “script” is about punishment and that the strong implication is that the punishment even down the suffering generations is deserved because of the perceived inferior nature of anyone who lives in poverty. If even the children deserve to be punished, why worry about any program that may improve their lot by providing support to their parents.

    I could go on, but i do not need to because i believe that those of you who respond so thoughtfully to Sheila’s blog understand the connections between family stress and failure and crime and all the rest for which poverty is such a fertile ground.

    Every person who does find and grasp those bootstraps does it with help, support and kindness which characteristics are some how missing from the so-called Christians who are leading your country (and possibly mine) straight to disaster.

  12. It’s really very simple. Elect people to the state legislature and governor, and Congress, who agree with a true people first approach…not some hoped for ripple effect trickle down approach that history shows just doesn’t work. The hard part now seems to be getting people to be voters who will do that.

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