There Are No Children Here
Here’s a part of the foreclosure crisis that hasn’t gotten much attention: What happens to children in families forced to move because they’ve lost their homes?
At creditslips.org, bankruptcy expert Elizabeth Warren finds some clues in a new report by the American Bankruptcy Law Journal. It concluded that among economically distressed families, those with children were twice as likely to try to hold on to their homes, both before and during bankruptcy. Parents would struggle to make expensive mortgage payments for as long as possible, putting aside other pressing financial needs. For them, losing a home was particularly painful, because they feared the lifetime effect it might have on their children.
Warren pointed out that the report is based on data from a wide-ranging 2001 study of consumers and bankruptcy that predated the current crisis. But its conclusions still apply now. The report even goes so far as to contend that foreclosure policies should take into account the presence of children in a home. I’m not sure how that would work. But I think Warren’s description of what happens to children who lose their homes is a reminder that some people will suffer far more than others as a result of the mortgage crisis, even years after it ends:
For adults to pick up stakes and move to a rental in a less desirable part of town can be painful, but they can go to the same work every day and continue the same after-work activities. For a child, however, foreclosure may mean transferring to a weaker school, losing a chance to play in the band or on a softball team, dropping out of a scout troop, and losing all the friends she has ever known. Sure, we’re a highly mobile society, and children move all the time. But a move to a nicer house or a move so mom can take a better job is a move that most parents undertake at least in part with an eye toward improving a child’s lifetime chances. A move from a foreclosure is not a move up.