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Families with disabled children are struggling to keep food on the table, a roof over their heads, and to pay for needed health and dental care. But according to a new study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, these challenges are now falling on middle-income households and not just on poor families as previous research has found.
A burgeoning relationship between U.S. and Chinese social workers is helping ensure that the world’s most populous nation can deal with its growing pains at the same time that it’s coming of age.
The problems vary widely – from helping victims of the recent Sichuan earthquake cope with trauma, to managing the impact that China’s one-child policy and a booming elderly population are having on the nation’s social fabric.
Such tasks aren’t made easier by the fact that social work as a discipline is still quite new in China and the number of trained professionals is relatively low.
The size of the financial burden on families with disabled children largely depends on which state they live in, according to a new study conducted by the schools of social work at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Washington University in St. Louis, Mo.
According to researchers, parents in states with higher average incomes face smaller burdens – meaning in contrast, more vulnerable families in poorer states often pay more of their own money to cover their disabled children’s health-care costs.
Studies show that children from single-parent households are more likely to live in poverty and are at greater risk for problems affecting their health, cognitive development and behavioral and academic success. But in North Carolina, a UNC School of Social Work program geared toward strengthening the relationships of unmarried, low-income parents could reverse those trends.
In the 1950s, as a young social services worker in some of North Carolina’s most rural communities, Melvarene Adair didn’t fully grasp the important role she was playing in so many families’ lives.
Back then, she spent much of her time making home visits to determine how much financial help or “welfare” that households would receive. Adair, who earned her masters of social work degree from UNC in 1976, still recalls one home in Warren County, where the family cooked their meals in the fireplace over an open flame.