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Click here to find out how you can help the Poor Kids featured in the FRONTLINE documentary
As Americans prepare to celebrate Thanksgiving, one in five of the nation’s children are living below the poverty level. One in 45 is homeless.
In Poor Kids, premiering Tuesday, Nov. 20, at 10 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), FRONTLINE travels to the Quad Cities, a great American crossroads along the border of Iowa and Illinois, to explore the lives of children living in the suburbs of the nation’s heartland and growing up poor. Told from the point of view of the children themselves, this one-hour documentary offers a unique perspective on the nation’s flagging economy and the impact of unemployment, foreclosure and financial distress as seen through the eyes of the children affected.
For 10-year-old Kaylie, the hardest part of dealing with her family’s financial difficulties is ignoring the gnawing hunger in her stomach. “I’m just starving,” she says. “We don’t get that three meals a day, like breakfast, lunch, and dinner.”
Her brother, Tyler, 12, agrees. “Sometimes when we have cereal, we don’t have milk, so we have to eat it dry,” he says. “Sometimes … when there’s a cooking show on, I get a little more hungry, and I want to vanish into the screen and just start eating the food.”
Kaylie and Tyler’s mother, Barbara, earns $1,480 a month. Rent and utilities consume $1,326 of that, leaving little money for food or gas. To help her mother, Kaylie spends her free time collecting cans.
“I just walk around, look for cans. I walk around the whole town,” she says. “The non-squished ones are five cents.”
In Poor Kids, Kaylie worries about missing so much school as a result of her family’s transient existence. She also shares her fears about the precarious state of her family’s finances: “When we can’t afford to pay our bills, like our house bills and stuff, I’m afraid that, like, we’ll get homeless and me and my brother will starve.”
It’s a fear that 9-year-old Brittany understands all too well. After her father lost his job, Brittany lost her home. Her family bounces from one relative’s couch to another’s before finally ending up in a dilapidated house on the edge of the Quad Cities.
“One day I started getting in the shower, and it was cold,” she recalls. “It was like, freezing. It felt like shoving your face in snow. The hot water shut off because we didn’t pay the bill in time. It was overdue.”
Brittany and her brother, Roger, lost many of their cherished possessions when the family could no longer make payments to the storage company holding their belongings.
“I was surprised by how things can change so fast,” Roger says. “You can go from doing OK, not having to go hungry, to this: going hungry and having to pay all your bills and not being able to [buy food], on the verge of being homeless again.”
In Poor Kids, Brittany learns her mother is expecting another baby. The 9-year-old is fearful about how they’ll manage to feed and care for an infant as another Midwest winter draws near, bringing with it potentially crippling utility bills.
“We always manage, don’t we?” her mother asks. “Know why? We’re survivors: Struggle, survive, and smile.”
Poor Kids is a FRONTLINE production with True Vision. The producer, writer and director is Jezza Neumann. Lauren Mucciolo is the co-producer. The executive producer for True Vision is Brian Woods. The deputy executive producer of FRONTLINE is Raney Aronson-Rath. The executive producer of FRONTLINE is David Fanning.
FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS. Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund. FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers by the Media Access Group at WGBH. FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Kaylie and Tyler
“Since the programme was shown we have had some great news. Kaylie is now in school and she loves it, her mother has signed her up to see the school councillor to help her and she is getting extra tuition in maths to help her catch up with what she has missed.
Thanks to the generosity of viewers’ the family have also moved into a trailer, it's not in the best state of repair so the trailer park are looking for one in better condition that is still affordable as it is in a great school district where both the children are very happy."
A big thankyou to the "Quad City Arts' Visiting Artists Series". They invited Kaylie her mother Barbara and her Grandmother to a show by the Lula Washington Dance Company, a group from south Los Angeles. This was Kaylie's first time seeing a live performance. Afterwards Kaylie got to meet and talk to the dancers; several of them started in their teens and through hard work have excelled. They encouraged her to follow her dreams.
While waiting for the dancers to come out after the show Kaylie was asked if she'd ever been on a stage and would she like to. She hadn't so she did. The picture of the handstand is her signature move.
Quad City Art's present over 160 educational outreaches during the year in several performing arts genres so students get a personal exposure to the arts and might be inspired by them.
"Tom has secured a job at a local mall which he has started, he is still applying for welding jobs locally.”
Since our last update Barbara, Kaylie and Tyler have moved out of their trailer and into a house. Barbara has started a new training course and Kaylie and Tyler are settled into their new school. Unfortunately the landlord needs them to move out of the house that they are renting, so your donations are an enormous help in assisting them to find somewhere else and with their moving costs.
Classie and her family are working towards moving to Florida and with the generosity of viewers donations along with their hard work it looks like they may be able to reach that goal.
Quad City Floods!!!
Our thoughts go out to Brittany and her family who are currently suffering massive flooding and are only just able to survive in their house while floods sweep across the Quad Cities.
A message from Brittany's family: "Thank you all for the thoughts, and being willing to help up, it means alot:) So far we are doing fine, the water isn't inside of our home yet. Praying that it doesn't though, this rain in Not helping matters. There are soo many others out here in my neighborhood who have already lost their homes due to the flooding. We could definitely use some prayers though:) Once again, thank you All soo much:) Just knowing that others care means alot to us:)"
Watch director, Jezza Neumann being interviewed on PBS about the making of the film
Diane Hebert-Farrell, (617) 300-5366, email@example.com
pbs.org/pressroom: Download promotional photography from the PBS Pressroom.