Understanding the Higher Rate of Poverty in the System with SPENT

On any given day, nearly one in five Texas children are living in poverty. Many of the children and families CASA serves are living at, or below, the poverty level. Children who are impoverished are more likely to come to the attention of the child protection system, even though abuse, neglect and crises can and do occur in families of all socioeconomic levels.

Poverty does not cause abuse, and most parents living in poverty do not abuse their children—so why is it so common for impoverished families to be involved with the child protection system? One reason is that people living in poverty more often have to turn to the social services system for support due to a lack of resources. Issues like accessing medical care, food stamps or affordable housing bring a family into contact with state social services. Once this contact is initiated, these families are often communicating with many mandated reporters. Neglect is often deeply intertwined with lack of access to the resources needed to provide a safe home. Due to class bias, people are also less likely to suspect and report middle- and upper-class families for abuse or neglect.

Developing a better understanding of the realities of poverty, and common scenarios that can lead to families getting involved with the system, will assist you in being a better advocate. Playing SPENT, an online poverty simulation, is a great place to start.


SPENT is an online game about poverty and the challenges it brings. In a one-month simulation, you will be presented with a series of choices, dilemmas and problems tied to your health, education and providing for the basic needs of your family. Often, there is no “good” solution to the issue at hand, and a decision you make to address a previous scenario will affect your options in a future scenario. Take 20 minutes and see how you fare in the game of SPENT!