What are some specific challenges to low-income families or those living in poverty face? How can these challenges affect the delivery of human services and our relationship with clients? Why is it important for human services professionals to be aware of class bias or classism?

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Specific challenges to low-income families or those living in poverty include fewer work opportunities for those belonging to disadvantaged groups and deficits in basic human capital, such as a lack of education or lower language skills, which bar access to higher-earning jobs. In working and non-working low-income families, the lack of a high school diploma will likely prove a barrier at some point. Poverty can be short-lived, and is frequently correlated with job loss or disability; however, chronic poverty can often be attributed to constant severe disadvantages such as chronic disability or a female-headed household with multiple children. Increasing childhood obesity is another challenge. These individuals and families may also live in less stable families and communities.

These challenges are often more prevalent among certain demographics and providers of human services must be especially sensitive to the challenges of delivering human services to disadvantaged populations in order to make them aware of assistance that they might not know is available. It is also important not to bring any prejudices; potential clients in need can come from any background.

It is important for human services providers to be aware of class bias so as to avoid stereotyping or other prejudices, as it may be difficult for a social service worker raised in a stable, middle-class environment to understand the behavior and choices of those from less advantaged backgrounds. Certain behaviors that are unacceptable in one class may be permissible or desirable in another class, and it is important that such personal judgments do not impinge on the professional delivery of services to those in need and those who qualify for assistance programs.

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