Back to school: It’s hell when you’re poor

The Compass - - EDITORIAL -

Kim and Tracy are the young moth­ers of three spe­cial-needs chil­dren. The men dis­ap­peared from their lives a long time ago and want noth­ing to do with the chil­dren. Both women are on in­come sup­port and both have less than $200 a month on which to live. The chil­dren are among the slightly more than 10,000 across the province faced with the hell of go­ing back-toschool when you’re poor.

They don’t talk much about the men, these strong, re­silient young women. Kim says she fled a vi­o­lent re­la­tion­ship from a guy who makes $35 an hour but re­fuses to spend a cent on the kids. Tracy doesn’t talk about the eco­nomic cir­cum­stances of the man who was in her life. She sim­ply says, “A lot of them when they are work­ing, when you take them to child sup­port, they quit.”

Kim has three chil­dren. There is a daugh­ter, 14, a bor­der­line di­a­betic, born with a brain dis­or­der and now epilep­tic be­cause of the same car ac­ci­dent which forced Kim to quit her job. She also has two boys. One is eight and her four year old is just be­gin­ning classes. She es­ti­mates it will cost $300 to send all three of them to school this fall. It is money she doesn’t have.

Tracy has two boys, 14 and 13. Both have learn­ing dis­abil­i­ties. The younger boy has also been di­ag­nosed with At­ten­tion Deficit Hy­per­ac­tiv­ity Dis­or­der. Send­ing her sons back to school will cost “a lot more than I got,” she says. She also plans to take classes this fall.

Find­ing a suit­able back-toschool wardrobe is a night­mare. Scour­ing thrift stores and buy­ing cheap items doesn’t al­ways work, par­tic­u­larly for older chil­dren. If the cloth­ing is cheap, Tracy says, it stig­ma­tizes them and they just don’t want to go.

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