family pic

family pic

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Single Mom & Government Assistance

I've chosen to write about a very controversial subject. Government assistance. A completely different feeling, mood, and/or mindset came over you when you read those two simple words didn't it? Most people have strong opinions regarding their stance on this topic and tend to be very verbal regarding their views. The purpose of this post is not to change your viewpoint, but to hopefully help you become more aware of the effects your verbalizations about government assistance can have on others. Let me share some of my story.

A couple of years ago I very suddenly and unexpectedly found myself on my own, without a full time job, without a place to live, without enough money for a rental deposit, and without a credit score as I had never even used a credit card. A dear mentor of mine offered for my children and I to move in with her until I had saved up enough money for a rental deposit. 

I had always seen myself as a strong individual. If someone told me I wasn't capable of doing something... I was going to do it. You guys, I even thought about joining the military after high school just because I felt like people viewed me as weak. Yes me, the girl who will not step foot out of the house without some makeup on. I was going to get out of my financial destitution. 

But... I couldn't.

For two weeks I sent out dozens and dozens of job applications. I didn't get one single interview. I sent out private messages to my Facebook friends. Nobody was hiring.

I had another dilemma going on. If I got an 8-5 job that would require day care expenses for my 4 year old along with before school and after school care for two kiddos. It would also require over $3,000 a year in summer childcare expenses. After calculating out the expenses I realized that I would actually be in the hole at the end of the month paying childcare expenses if I obtained a normal $10 hr job. 

I went to apply for government assistant childcare vouchers. There was a waiting list to obtain a voucher and you also had to show that you had already obtained a job before the vouchers would be granted. 

I ended up finding a part-time 9-2 job. This would prevent before school and after school expenses, but I would still need to find childcare for my 4 year old. Less than 2 days into the job I received a call that my son had received a spot in a Head Start preschool. I just needed to go into their offices to complete some additional paperwork. This preschool is a government assisted center for low income families with children who need academic help before starting Kindergarten. 

As I walked into my caseworker's building I felt so ashamed and embarrassed being on the receiving end of a "hand out". I had just heard some acquaintances state that they were pulling their children out of their school because of the low income children of various races in that school. I was not only putting my son in that school, but I was now categorized (with the exception of race) as one of those families. 

As I waited in the waiting room, my name was called. The case worker was a large jovial Hispanic man. You couldn't help but love this man. He began to ask me difficult questions about our income, housing status, etc. I reluctantly opened up about our current circumstances. He immediately jumped into action and helped me come up with a game plan in order to provide for my family. While he was giving me information about various government assistance available to me, his boss, an empowering exhorting hispanic lady, came and sat with us. While I was talking to her, she stated, 

"I feel like you are a believer. I am a believer as well.. along with your case worker here (who was beaming from this information). I feel like this meeting today has been God-ordained. I can see that He has a plan to take care of you."

Which was through government assistance.

I cannot express how big of a blessing Kydon's preschool was not only to Kydon, but to me as well. I chose to represent his school as their policy counsel leader, and once a month I met with the other policy counsel leaders representing all of the other Head Start programs in our area. I met the most beautiful souls during those meetings, one of whom was an African American mother of three children. She worked full time, taking the bus at 6 am in order to get her child to daycare and to make it to work on time. She received no child support and obviously could not support her children off the minimum wage amount she was making. I was kindly put back into my place when I expressed my ignorant opinion about not needing to make a big deal about their preschool graduation. I stated how I felt like they would have plenty of ceremonies from elementary to high school. I was reminded that this may be the only ceremony for some of these children.

During this time I would read Facebook posts about people's disgust over food stamps, medicaid, etc. Tears would well up as read and heard about how these people needed to just go and get a job. "It's not that easy" I would think.

Some people, aware of my situation, would quickly end their opinions with "it's different with you". Their words still stung. 

I write this post to you, encouraging you to be aware of the stories behind the individuals receiving government assistance, encouraging you to be sensitive in how you verbalize and post about your opinions, encouraging you to be quick to offer a helping hand rather than to pass stereotypical judgements.

God has graciously brought me into a new season of life, but I can honestly say I am deeply grateful for the previous chapter of my story and the life changing lessons I learned during that time. I'll leave you with a precious video of my son during his preschool graduation. He went into the program with delayed speech, barely able to state his first name. He left able to state his first and last name, his age, and his birthdate. I feel honored to have been a part of this program.