A school district is threatening to put children in foster care if parents don't pay their kid's lunch debts.
According to Scary Mommy, the district sent out over 1,000 letters to parents who let their payments slide. The county in question, Wyoming Valley West, says it's owed around $22,000 prompting the letter, which was sent out on July, 9, 2019.
“Your child has been sent to school every day without money and without breakfast and/or lunch. This is a failure to provide your child with proper nutrition and you can be sent to Dependency Court for neglecting your child’s right to food,” reads the note. "...The result may be your child being taken from your home and placed in foster care.”
Parents were quick to contact the district's school board when they received the letter. They say that their intention was not to frighten parents and that the note was not reviewed properly before being sent out. On top of this, they plan on sending out another batch of letters, apologizing for the miscommunication.
Despite this, however, Wyoming Valley West received a lot of backlash. Not only from caregivers but also the local youth services.
“The result may be your child being taken from your home and placed in foster care,” says Joanne Van Saun, executive director of Luzerne County Children and Youth Services. She calls the letter a misrepresentation of what the agency does.
While the school board has stepped back from its original stance, it does raise concerns about hungry children in the USA. According to the organization No Kid Hungry, over 12 million children in the country live in homes that don't have enough food for everyone in the family. One way this is dealt with is through food programs at schools. These provide healthy breakfasts and lunches for kids living in homes that operate under the poverty line — which was about $25,750 for a family of four as of 2018. In fact, about 59 percent of families that fall into that category participate in some form of lunch program.
Unfortunately, those only work during the school year. Summer is considered the hungriest season for children in households without enough food, but summer meals programs are in place to help. As of now, however, they only reach about 15 percent of households that truly need it.
Hopefully, this letter is a chance for the school board to realize how fragile the situation is for many families, and instead of threatening low-income homes with social services, they can help develop programs that can improve the lives of children who would otherwise go hungry.