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Kids and our Economy, The Unseen Victims of Foreclosure
by Julia Gentry

Stability, security, two of the most important things a child needs when growing up. Instability, insecurity, two of the most common things a child will experience if foreclosure hits their family. Children are often the overlooked victims of the current economic downturn and housing crisis. Research indicates that 1.95 million children will be affected by foreclosure. As if foreclosure is not difficult enough for struggling parents, it is also taking away the innocence of this nation’s children.

Children know when parents are stressed. They sense when there is a problem. Many times children are unable to understand exactly what is happening or why. In fact, research from First Focus and the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, shows that even children from birth-4 years old do not fully understand, nor are they able to articulate distress, but they feel stress and upheaval. In this stage of life what they feel may translate into high rates of developmental delays and a lag in motor skills. A sense of stability is crucial to this age group. Foreclosure or losing their home can be an event with life long residuals for a child.

The adjustment period for a child having to relocate or move schools is at least 6 weeks. This period of time is just enough to put older children at a greater risk of falling behind. Behavioral problems, learning deficiencies, health or emotional issues may also surface. Children often feel shame and added anxiety of having to explain why they must leave their school or why they came to a new one. If a child moves twice in one year, they are half as likely as others their age to read proficiently and have a greater chance of retention. Frequent moves reduce a child’s chance of graduating on time by half.

If children are involved in sports, clubs, music, after school programs their loss will be magnified even more, especially if they must relocate to a different school. Many older children feel they must find jobs to help their parents and wind up not being able to participate in activities they enjoy even at a new school. Friends, teachers, social networks, sport teams are left behind, along with a child’s confidence and self-esteem.

To help prevent or at least lessen the stress a child feels as a result of foreclosure, parents should talk to them, taking into account their age and ability to understand. Children need to be assured that it wasn’t their fault in any way and that they will be taken care of. Allow children to speak openly about their feelings, regardless of how difficult it may be to have such a conversation.

Something to consider instead of foreclosure may be a short sale. A loss of a home is hard, but the feeling of it being ripped away is lessened if the family can get help in negotiating a sale and walk away with some dignity. Even though this would be difficult for a child, the feelings of shame dissipate.

There is no doubt that the life of a family in foreclosure will be difficult, but the most important thing a family can do is stick together, take one day at a time, and begin again. Children are resilient. If parents can give them assurance and hope, they can adjust. Before giving in to foreclosure, consider the affects on children, and seriously consider any and all other options.

About the author:

Julia Gentry is owner and marketing director for Ideal Homes. Julia has been active in real estate since November of 2007, specializing in working directly with homeowners who are behind on their mortgage payments and/or are unable to sell their homes. For more information on short sales or Ideal Homes, visit www.SolvedQuick.com.