By S. Kelley Henderson, Chief Executive Officer, Action Ministries
Kids are back in school, and most families have returned to their normal routines. As a child, my brother and I would get up early…usually after an ever-escalating verbal warning from mom! Both parents worked in our home, so our day started with a quick simple breakfast, usually oatmeal, and out the door to the bus stop. As we were older, we could handle the bus stop on our own, so that mom and dad could get out to work. After a full day, school lunch, then we would find our way back home via bus after school. Dinner was usually together as a family, homework time, then a little television, bath, bed…repeat the next morning. Fast forward a couple of decades, and most of us likely had a similar routine with our kids albeit with a few more extracurricular activities.
There is something wholesome about a family routine. The consistency and reliability of a routine offers “normalcy” to life. What if any one part of our routine was disrupted? What if you skipped breakfast because the pantry was empty, or missed the bus because you didn’t have a parent to wake you? Perhaps you had to bathe and tuck in your sibling, because mom was working a second job. Who could help with homework, and what about dinner tonight?
Many of these “what-if” scenarios represent the normal routine for so many families in Georgia today. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count Data project, 1 out of 5 kids live in poverty in Georgia this year. Two parent households have been on a sliding trend for the past decade, and families living in poverty are disproportionately impacted. Now with more single parent households than ever before, roughly 38%, half of these same families have young children (ages 3-4) who are not in Pre-K, fortifying trends for the next generation. Perhaps the most startling statistic is that 2/3rds of fourth graders are not reading at grade level, and 69% of eighth graders are not proficient in math (Kids Count, 2019).
Working to help families find a “new normal,” might just improve the troubling trends we are witnessing. Earlier this month, I wrote about how parents are invited to engage in our Smart Kid! After School programs, and we are seeing some promising outcomes from this work. Another way Action Ministries is working to improve family well-being, is to create opportunities for families to serve together. In our community kitchens, guests are invited to volunteer regularly to help others attending. Within the Trinity Family Assessment Center in Atlanta, moms take turn preparing meals for other families and also share household chores with each other. Finally, every family in our Welcome Home housing program has access to food boxes to prepare home cooked meals, so that no parent will have to worry about their kids skipping a meal while they are working to get back on their feet.
All of this work takes investment, from thousands of volunteers who serve, collect food, tutor kids…and from generous sponsors who support out work. We think it is important work, because we believe that families matter. This is our future, and it is a future worth working for…will you join us?