When Parents Lose Jobs, Children Sacrifice

children of the unemployed

Children typically don't hold jobs, but that doesn't make them immune to the consequences of the nation's growing unemployment rate. As the recession continues and more parents lose their jobs, many children join the family efforts to make ends meet.

That includes Deanna and Timia Watts of Flatrock, Mich.

Since their mother lost her job and had to sell the family car, Deanna and Tamia have been walking everywhere. A trip to the grocery store takes an hour by foot.

A Day in the Life of Children of Unemployed Parent
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"It is a lot harder to get there," Deanna said.

The girls' mom lost her job a year ago.

"She said she lost her job, and I was just in shock," said Deanna. "I want to do something but I can't really, because it's like I'm so limited, I want to get a job, but I can't because of the economic situation going on. … No one is hiring."

Some 900 miles south, in Dothan, Ala., Mychaela Weekley has written a letter to President Obama about how her family has been affected by the recession.

VIDEO: From Jobs to Jobless: A Tale of 6 Cities
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"Our mom is the most amazing person in the world," Mychaela wrote. "She was recently a teacher for five years, but when our economy started falling, she lost her job."

Mychaela has a few strategies for saving money.

"Using a timer to not take too long showers is a great way my mom and I thought to save electricity and money," she said. And, she added, "We are always reminding each other to always turn the lights out."

Having fun at Mychaela's home now means staying home instead of going out.

"We play board games together. We watch movies at home together," Mychaela said. "Me and my brother, we have learned to appreciate what we have."

It's a sentiment shared by Deanna Watts.

"Never take things for granted because you never know what is going to happen," Deanna said. "I think you should save. You should always have backup plans in case things don't work, because you don't know what may come up."

In some respects, children like Deanna and Mychaela are lucky. As the recession continues to batter American households, other children have had to make more painful sacrifices -- they've given up their homes.

Young and Homeless

"Good Morning America" visited children left homeless by the recession last month.

That included 3-year-old Shema Kakiza once lived in a beautiful Los Angeles town house with her mother and father, a small business owner who used to work for the famous Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Los Angeles. Now Shema plays on the roof of the Union Rescue Mission, the city's largest homeless shelter where she and her family were forced to move in October.

To help the children featured in this story, Click Here.

"I'm pretending it's my backyard," said Shema, one of the more than 120 children currently living at the shelter. She is also one of more than a million children expected to become homeless in America this year, according to Barbara Duffield, policy director of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth.

With two floors of the shelter already full, Andy Bales, the CEO of the Mission, said he has had to resort to pitching tents wherever he can find space, including inside the shelter's chapel. The tents are 7 feet long by 3 feet wide, and can house up to four people, or one family.

These tents are built and given out free to homeless shelters and individuals by a charity called Everyone Deserves a Roof.

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