When families are scraping the bottom of the barrel to pay the bills, kids are left wondering if their basic needs will be met. More Mississippi children are now living in poverty. Mom Val Haley said she believes the solutions begin with engaging the parents.
"He had gotten in the habit of saying, 'mom will our lights be off when I come home from school?'," Haley said about her son. "It broke me down."
Haley said pride has stood in her way of getting help before. She's been on government assistance but says it wasn't enough.
"It's not cute struggling," admitted Haley. "It's not fine saying the welfare office got me. It's to help us. It's pretty much a crutch. You not gonna stay on a crutch forever."
The Kids Count report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation shows more than a third of Mississippi kids are living in poverty. Even more of their parents don't have a secure job.
"I stopped working when I became a parent," added Haley. "It should've been the other way around. It's been very hard."
Haley has been full circle in that cycle. She's lived in the same low income housing since she was five-years-old. And was asking her mom the same questions about light bills as a kid. Now, she's trying to be a better parent and stress the importance of education to her two young boys.
"I know it's more than those 12 steps under the patio," Haley said. "Those 12 steps lead you, once you go down, to a better life. But you have to want to do better."
It wasn't all bad news in the Kids Count report. One thing that improved was that more students are now graduating from high school on time in Mississippi.