In 2014, PBS aired an update on Brittany, Kaylie and Johnny. At that time, Kaylie was
back in school and her family moved into a trailer. Her mother still struggled to pay the bills and
their housing remained unstable. Brittany’s family moved again because of financial troubles,
but her father was working again. Johnny’s family did not stay in the Salvation Army transitional
housing for long. The family moved to Florida after Johnny’s father found a higher paying job.
Viewers of Poor Kids have been generous in their donations to the children featured in the film.
III. THE EFFECT OF POVERTY ON CHILDREN
Living in poverty has wide ranging and lasting effects on the physical and mental health
of children. Children living in poor households have an increased risk of physical health
problems. These physical health problems include poor nutrition, childhood obesity, and chronic
conditions such as asthma, anemia, and pneumonia. Children growing up in poverty also have a
higher risk of exposure to environmental contaminants and are at a greater risk for behavioral
and emotional problems including impulsiveness, getting along poorly with peers, aggression,
and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorders. It is also common for poor children to suffer
from anxiety, depression or low self-esteem. The effects of poverty on children’s physical and
mental health can also have an effect on children’s behavior and decision-making.
Poverty leads to an increased risk of children engaging in risky behaviors such as
smoking, increased violence, and engaging in early sexual activity. Poverty can also have a
negative effect on a child’s academic achievement. Stress from living in poverty adversely
affects children’s concentration and memory, which in turn impacts a child’s ability to learn.
Additionally, children growing up in poor families are more likely to need to get jobs at an
earlier age to help support themselves and their families, which can affect a child’s ability to
spend time on school work. Poor children are more likely to drop out of high school and never
attend college, which drastically reduces job opportunities in the future. Inadequate education
among poor children leads to a cycle of poverty by making it difficult for poor children to find
well-paying jobs and support their families in the future.
In an interview, Poor Kids director, Jezza Neuman, expressed that she felt that poverty
was holding the children in the film back. Children in poverty do not have access to the same
opportunities as other children because of their families’ financial situation. It was clear to
Neuman that the children were witty and intelligent, but unfortunately, they could not achieve
their full potential because of the opportunities they lacked.
Child poverty in the United States is a serious problem that has not greatly improved in
the last five years. Children who grow up in poverty can have lasting mental and physical health
problems and are more likely to have their own children that are raised in poverty. Poor Kids
gives viewers an intimate look at what it is like to grow up in poverty, and shows the common
struggles that poor children face in a way that is candid and personal. It is impossible not to feel
sorry for the children in the film, but it is important to remain hopeful about their futures.