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Child Begging in the United States-A New Problem?

Updated on January 27, 2015

Child Begging in the United States-Really?

When most people hear the term child begging, they think of a very dirty, dejected looking child, living in a country like India, Morocco or France asking for money on the streets in order to buy some food. However, I have news for you: child begging is a problem in the United States, and unfortunately, the situation might increase because of the horrid economic conditions this country is currently trying to recover from might not be enough for some.

Worse than that, like most items associated with poverty or racism in this country, no one is really researching and/or talking about it: except maybe a few like myself. Who knows why; I know my theory is because there are enough people in this country who hate to hear negatives about anyone's ability to live the American dream, or that make the United States look bad. Well, anyway, I hope this article will shed some light on this issue in the hopes that a) we can resolve the issue of child begging in the United States before it becomes a super major issue and b) help make the United States a better place for ourselves and these children so that they can live the American dream

What Are Child Beggars Like in the United States?

Child beggars in the United States, so far, can come in two forms. 1) that child is connected to a homeless adult who is begging for money and 2) that child has been shanghaied into an international illicit gang that is using the child to beg. Most of the reports of child begging cases are coming from New York City, however, because of the amount of homeless children in the United States because of the recession and the high rate of human trafficking here, that statistical data related to this issue could be nationally rampant.

There have been reports in New York City subways of families taking their children along with them to beg. What's even worse, women and families who are begging in New York City subways are bring along their infants-new born babies to be precise! Sometimes these women are found in New York City subway cars, while others frequent the subway stations. There are even cases of women using babies in their begging regime along major streets in New York City neighborhoods, such as Manhattan. There is non-existent statistical data on this issue, so we don't really know how many children are on the streets with their impoverished families begging and/or whether or not these are genuine poverty cases, or if they are linked to illicit gangs that use beggars to obtain a profit. There are also cases of illicit gangs from other parts of the world using children to beg on major American streets. Recently, a gang from Mexican origin was recently put to justice in New York City, for this very reason. Many of the children they shanghaied were very young, between the ages of 4-16, and they were forcing them to beg for a certain quota for profit. Unfortunately, we don't know how many of these groups exist, and the exact numbers of children on the streets begging. Most likely, many of these children were trafficked into the United States from Mexico, others parts of Latin America, maybe even from other regions of the developing/underdeveloped world, specifically to beg for these organizations.

Is This a Is Child Begging A New Trend in the US, or Was This Bound to Happen?

This appears to be a new trend, however, according to the current statistics on homelessness and its relationship to families, women and children in the United States, this is bound to become a normal social phenomena. The truth of the matter is that homelessness for the American family is on the rise. There are more reports of families wandering the streets, and checking into homeless shelters. There are even cases of families moving from shelter to shelter, and public location to public location, just because they can't afford to stay anywhere. In 2013, it was estimated that 45 million individuals were living at or below the poverty line. According to the non-profit, Homeless Children of America, about 19.8% of these individuals are children under the ages of 18. According to a 2014 study done by Jiang, Ekono, and Skinner, 22% of America's children living below or at the poverty line. That's about 16 million children who live with a single mother, single father or family that cannot earn enough money to feed, clothe, provide medical care and educate their children.

There have been studies on the effect that poverty has on children. First, the hunger and anxiety that comes along with poverty and the realities with homelessness can cause children to miss school and/or have problems concentrating in school. Second, children living in poverty and are homeless often suffer from malnutrition and major health problems because they do not have access to proper nutrition and/or medical care. Third, homeless children living in poverty also suffer from psychological issues, and have a greater chance of getting involved in criminal activity. For some reason, though, none of the studies have gone into detail as to why certain children choose certain criminal activities. To be quite frank, studies on homelessness, poverty and childhood in the United States seem to not mention much on criminal activities, whether the child is a willing participant or is being abused for an adult's avarice designs. However, other studies on poverty and childhood around the world indicate that children do have a higher chance of becoming involved in criminal activities such as begging, prostitution, selling drugs, slavery and other street activities. These activities are either forced upon the child by their parents or by adults already involved in a criminal organization that uses begging or whatever illicit activity they are involved in for economic gain. In the states where we know children are forced to beg and/or work as slaves like Senegal, Bangladesh and India, the poverty rate is at the same it is now in the US or greater! We know that the parents often live at or below the poverty line themselves, and therefore their children become a prime victim to be abused for illicit economic gain.

Many predict that the numbers of children living at or below the poverty line is going to continue to increase, despite efforts by the Obama administration to improve the economy and the job market. Nonetheless, if nothing is done about the child begging we are starting to witness in New York City, it might turn into a larger problem comparable to that of the developing and underdeveloped world. Furthermore, these children will not have the skills nor ability to contribute to the American workforce, which will therefore contribute to further economic problems, and create a community of individuals living in poverty with little or no ability to escape. I don't know about you, but this isn't living the American dream and no one, whether they live in our country or in another, has the right to live like this. This is not what our founding fathers envisioned, nor should any of us feel comfortable with the idea that while some of us go to sleep in our comfy beds and drink our white mocha lattes at Starbucks, there's a family hanging out at a gas station with a five year old wondering where their next meal is coming from, where they are going to sleep and how much money they have in their pockets just to get their youngest child cough medicine.

Recommendations on How to Resolve Child Begging in the United States

We need to act now before this turns into a huge problem for not only these children, but for all of us. In order to do that, our law enforcement are going to have to develop strategies and keep on the lookout for signs of child begging, especially those related to illicit gangs. This way, we can put the perpetrators to justice and get the children off the streets into foster homes, obtain asylum and/or get back to their families. If you see a woman with a child begging on the streets, maybe mention something to your local homeless shelter or maybe to a law enforcement individual, to make sure that individual and their child is being taken care of by these institutions rather than begging on the street. However, what would matter even more is if local and state governments could establish legislation that can better help adults who find themselves in poverty to find jobs. That, in reality, is the only way to cure poverty: get people off the streets and teach them how to get out of poverty. One way to do this, is to help impoverished families to find ways to get the training they need for jobs, so that their children can go to school. Non-profits can help with these programs, and many of them like Feed the Children, Feed America, Goodwill, Habitat for Humanity, and many homeless shelters, do help families at least find descent food, a place to stay and the supplies they need for education. However, it seems like we still need more programs like this because of the staggering statistics the United States is seeing in regards to childhood poverty, or at least, a way to help those living in poverty to learn more about these opportunities to help not only save them, but improve their quality of life.

Therefore, the next time you see a poor person on the street begging for money, think of what you can do to help them get off the street and better their life, rather than just blindly walk away, or throw a coin into their jar. It's going to take all of us, in either small or large ways, to help resolve this issue and create a better America for all of us.

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    • Danielle Swisher profile imageAUTHOR

      Danielle Swisher 

      3 years ago from Florida

      Unfortunately child beggars often go into drug trafficking because they have no other choice of what to do, but they also get into it to escape their begging situation and try to make money for themselves. Therefore, because of this link, I cannot 100% agree with you that child begging is a lesser evil that child drug trafficking. My research seems to show that any activity that involves children in the streets tends to involve some sort of violence, a child being forced to do something they really shouldn't be doing, and are making money for an adult, normally an adult who isn't their parent involved in crime. The only difference between child begging and child drug trafficking is that a child is begging in the streets while a child in drug trafficking is often selling drugs either to profit themselves or once again, another illicit gang trying to make a profit off the child's backs.

    • ikepius profile image


      3 years ago from Twittosphere: @ikepius

      Child-Begging seems to be a lesser evil to child-drug trafficking!


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