Underprivileged children typically refers to children from homes with a low socioeconomic status. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, almost 13 million children in the U.S. live in homes with incomes below the poverty level 2. Although a child can be underprivileged simply by virtue of poverty, other factors can cause a child to be underprivileged, including the lack of adequate parental care. What you do to help an underprivileged child depends on the needs of the child and family.
Sometimes underprivileged children lack the basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing and shelter. In these cases, providing a child with new clothing or assisting the family in securing shelter and food goes a long way to improving the life of the child. This can include providing the service yourself, or providing the family with resources and contact numbers to agencies that can help. This might be most effective in families suffering a sudden loss of work or other life-altering event that affects the family's ability to provide for the needs of the children.
Many underprivileged children suffer from a lack of opportunity. This can include access to social events, exposure to cultural events, or lack of transportation to participate in after-school activities or other healthy hobbies. For these children, providing access or offering a ride might improve their life.
Some underprivileged children lack quality time with important adults in their lives, either because both parents are working or single parents are holding down two jobs to make ends meet. For these children, giving your time can make a difference in their lives. This includes striking up a conversation, inviting them over for a snack (with parental permission, of course), or asking them along for family activities. Other options include volunteering through a recognized organization such as Volunteer on Demand or The Real Gift Foundation 1.
Providing the child is old enough, hiring an underprivileged child to do odd jobs gives them a way to earn some money to meet their needs, and might build self-esteem as well. Guard against hiring underprivileged children for tasks that are demeaning or otherwise distasteful to their peers because that can cause the child embarrassment and become the source of teasing and bullying.
Like all children, underprivileged children have varying needs. Take some time to get to know the child and assess her needs. While one might need assistance with basic living, another might be dying for a new pair of shoes or set of new books to read. Take your cues from the child and provide what the child needs, or will appreciate, and resist the urge to give the child what you think she should have.
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