Families with Unique Challenges
Families who live in poverty, families in which substance abuse and/or physical abuse and neglect occur, families who live in sparsely populated rural areas and those in the center of large urban areas, and parents who themselves have a disability all present unique needs and challenges (see Turnbull & Turnbull, 1990).
According to 1989 Census Bureau statistics, a family of three was judged poor if its annual income was under $9,885. Families who have difficulty in obtaining and maintaining adequate housing, food, and medical care may find it particularly difficult to participate in their children's schooling. The logistical and economic difficulties of arranging transportation, time off from work, and child care for other children in the home may make a visit to their child's school an unlikely event (Turnbull & Turnbull, 1990).
Homelessness is a growing problem linked to poverty. Single-parent families may make up as many as one-third of the population of homeless persons (Turnbull & Turnbull, 1990). The Children's Defense Fund estimated from 1989 Census Bureau Data that the youngest Americans have the highest chance of being poor, with 20.1 percent of children under six years of age living in poverty.
Families in Urban Areas
Repetto (990), in a report on vocational education, noted the many challenges faced by educators and families living in urban areas. Decreases in population, employment, services, and financial revenues have occurred simultaneously with increases in unskilled immigrant groups, teen parents, drug abuse, and homelessness (Hill, Wise, & Shapiro, 1989, cited in Repetto, 1990).
Families in central urban areas are faced with problems that can jeopardize the welfare of their children. The National League of Cities (Born, 1989, cited in Repetto, 1990) identified the following obstacles: (a) 20 percent of the children living in urban America live in poverty; (b) housing costs have increased three times faster than per capita income; (c) young people in the United States abuse drugs more than youth in other industrialized countries; and (d) 75 percent of this country's mothers find it difficult to obtain adequate child care (p. 1).
The National Center for Education Statistics reported that dropout rates for youth in inner cities were significantly higher than for youth attending non urban schools (Kaufman & Frase, 1990, cited in Repetto, 1990). In some urban areas the rate of failure to graduate from high school approaches one half.
Urban schools face a multitude of special needs. Repetto (990) noted that the majority of these districts had found it necessary to initiate a variety of special programs for pregnant and parenting students, students who abused drugs, and those who were at risk for dropping out.
Repetto's (990) review of best practices literature indicated that successful urban education programs are characterized by high standards for all students, curricula that stress the relationship between school and real-life demands of living in the city, and cooperative efforts between schools, employers, social service providers, and families. After reviewing data on a number of successful urban school programs around the nation, Repetto (990) concluded that collaborative relationships between schools and other agencies in the larger community are necessary to resolve the many problems faced by educators in urban areas.
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