An industry is usually defined as a category of private companies providing similar goods or services, such as the coal mining industry. The poverty industry, however, includes both companies and government entities: the private sector is partnering with state and local governments to use the vulnerable as a resource for extracting funds. Similar to how the coal mining industry mines rock for coal ore that can be converted into profit, the poverty industry mines children and the poor for aid funds and resources that are converted into private profit and government revenue.
The notion that human service agencies should fund themselves by taking resources from populations they exist to serve is counterintuitive at best. Also, the revenue strategies often do not provide the agencies with additional fiscal capacity. While the agencies are searching for funds, their parent states are as well. Funds extracted from children and the poor are often rerouted into general state coffers rather than used to increase agency funding. Human service agencies extract funds from their own impoverished beneficiaries, states take aid funds from their agencies, and the private contractors in turn take their cut.
According to 2012 census data, 9.5 million families in the U.S. were living below the poverty line, up from 7.7 million families in 2005. The families living in poverty included 33.1 million individuals (adults and children) within those families—so an average family size of about 3.5 individuals. Almost one out of 4 children under six years of age were living in families under the poverty threshold.
Unfortunately, the government power to help vulnerable populations was conflicted from its feudal beginnings. Fortunately, public enlightenment and revulsion to such sale of wardship and marriage rights eventually led to the end of the practice in England. But the conflict between government purpose and self-interest continued in America.
Most of us assume that human service agencies are generally pure in their pursuit of the best interests of their beneficiaries. We want to believe that an agency serving an abused and neglected child or vulnerable adult will strictly serve the welfare of that child or individual and put any conflicting interests aside. But in confidential systems with unfettered discretion as sought by the agencies like in Georgia, the rights of the vulnerable often give way to the self-interests of the agencies. Usually, the front-line caseworkers—although overburdened by high caseloads—are genuine in their desire to serve the best interests of children. However, the agency leaders are too often focused more on the financial bottom line.