80.7 F
Charlotte Amalie
Thursday, May 30, 2024


According to the 1990 U. S. Census, about one-fourth of all families in the U. S. Virgin Islands live in poverty. Moreover, 83 percent of those families had children younger than 18.
I should note that the number of children living in poverty in the U. S. Virgin Islands is about 12 percent higher than the average in the United States. The great majority of these households were headed by females.
A casual review of many of these homes reflects that contributing factors to their poverty are:
— The mother had her first child before completing her education.
— The children have different fathers.
— The fathers of the children also have fathered children with other females and, therefore, provide limited financial and/or emotional contributions to their children.
Many undereducated and/or untrained mothers work, but do so in low-paying occupations, generally without much hope of upward mobility.
These jobs commonly come without the benefits that are necessary to their well-being: health care and pensions. To avoid this, we must collectively strive to get out the message to our teens that they must wait to have children until they have completed their education.
Many of these women could still have risen out of poverty if they had limited themselves to one or two children. However, many instead had four to six, and by doing so oftentimes doomed themselves and their children to a life of poverty and limited options for success.
It is essential that we in the Virgin Islands understand the relationship between lack of family planning and poverty.
We must find non-threatening, user-friendly ways to get our people to believe in the need for family planning. Continuing to fail to do so can only result in an increase in taxpayer-supported programs and a declining tax base.
If this persists, where will the money be found to ensure that each and every child receives all the support needed, both financial and emotional, to develop into healthy adults?
Editor's note: Catherine L. Mills has a master's degree in social work and is a former Human Services commissioner.

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